The European Union is one step closer to finalising economic and trade agreements with Japan and Singapore. The European Commission on April 18 presented the European Council with the outcomes of negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan and the trade and investment agreements with Singapore.

“The step we are taking today paves the way for our companies and citizens to start benefitting from the full potential of the Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan already in the coming year,” said President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. “Europe believes in open and fair trade, based on a global rulebook. Our economy depends on it, our companies thrive off it and our consumers expect it.

“Today we take a step forwards towards concluding agreements with two of our closest Asian partners, Japan and Singapore,” he added. “The impact of these agreements will go far beyond our respective shores – it sends a clear and unambiguous message that we stand together against protectionism and in defence of multilateralism. This is more important than ever.”

According to Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, who is responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, the EU stands up for an open, rules-based and fair trade order. “Japan and Singapore are key and like-minded economic partners,” he said. “The signature of deep and comprehensive trade agreements with them will benefit our exporters, workers and consumers – by for example eliminating duties worth €1bn per year on EU exports to Japan every year.”

For the EU’s Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, these “win-win agreements” will create major opportunities for European businesses and citizens. “The economic partnership with Japan will cover an area with 600m consumers and a third of global GDP,” she said. “Its economic potential is clearly unprecedented. Singapore is already a gateway for Europe into South East Asia, and with our new agreements we aim for a strong boost to our trade with the region. Both Japan and Singapore are important partners for us in defending multilateralism and ensuring strong international organisations.”

According to a European Commission press release, the Japan agreement is the biggest bilateral trade partnership ever negotiated by the European Union. As for the trade and investment agreements with Singapore, these are the EU’s first completed bilateral deals with a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Once approved by the Council, the agreements will be sent to the European Parliament, aiming for the entry into force of the trade agreements with Japan and Singapore before the end of the current mandate of the European Commission in 2019. The investment protection agreement with Singapore will follow its ratification procedure also at Member State level.