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On 24th August 2018 the Official Journal of the European Union published the decision of the Council of the European Union 2018/1197 on the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Japan.

According to Article 1 of the agreement, the objective of the agreement is to promote political and sectoral cooperation, to strengthen bilateral cooperation and cooperation in international and regional organisations and forums, as well as to contribute jointly to international peace and stability and to the promotion of common principles and values, in particular democracy, the rule of law and human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The agreement in each of its articles develops the above objectives by touching on a very diverse range of issues, the following being related to judicial and legislative cooperation:

(1) Judicial cooperation. The European Union and Japan undertake to strengthen cooperation in civil and commercial matters with regard to the conventions on judicial cooperation signed to this end. They will do so by strengthening the Agreement between the European Union and Japan on mutual assistance in criminal matters.

(2) Fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. The parties shall strengthen exchanges of information, in order to prevent the laundering of proceeds of crime and for the financing of terrorism, taking into account recognised internal standards. The article also highlights the rules of the Financial Action Task Force, to which both the EU countries and Japan belong.

(3) Taxation. In promoting good governance in tax matters, countries will strengthen cooperation in this area by complying with internationally established tax rules and by encouraging third countries to increase transparency, to ensure the exchange of information and to eliminate harmful tax practices.

(4) Cooperation to promote the investigation and prosecution of serious crimes of international concern, through the International Criminal Court and, where appropriate, the courts established in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

The agreement also covers, among others, the following topics: crisis management, strengthening the non-proliferation and disarmament regime, development policies, disaster management and humanitarian action, cooperation in science, technology and innovation, industrial cooperation, the environment, tourism, climate change or agriculture and fisheries.

In addition to the previous agreement, the European Union and Japan signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on 17th July 2018. The agreement is expected to enter into force in 2019 after ratification by the European Parliament and the Japanese Diet, and will have a very positive impact on trade relations between the European region and Japan.

The agreement will reduce trade barriers and tariffs between the two parties. Initially, approximately 85% of tariffs on products will be eliminated and, by the end of the transitional periods, tariffs on almost 100% of products will have been eliminated, resulting in tariff cost savings of up to €1 billion, according to data managed by the European Commission. The sectors that will be most affected are: pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food and agriculture, motor vehicles and transport equipment.

According to the European Commission, thanks to the agreement, European production is expected to increase by up to 0.76% and, according to a study by the London School of Economics, there could be an impact on European exports to Japan of up to a third, as well as a very positive effect on recruitment and employment in the European Union.

The European Union and Japan have undoubtedly entered a new phase in their economic and political relations. We can expect a rapprochement between European governments and the Japanese government, the consolidation of economic relations and increased investment in both directions, as well as increased cooperation at the judicial level and in other areas.

Pedro Blanco

24th of August 2018

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