European Union signs biggest ever trade deal and attacks Donald Trump

Japan gets cheaper cheese as it signs EU’s ‘biggest’ trade deal

Juncker said the deal sent a message that "trade is about more than tariffs and barriers, it is about values".

Japan's Minister for Economic Revitalisation, Toshimitsu Motegi, said on Tuesday: "At a time when protectionist measures are gaining steam globally, the signing of the Japan-EU deal today will show the world once again our unwavering political will to promote free trade".

Although the leaders didn't mention him by name, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and European Union leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker distanced themselves from Trump's tactics in a press conference following the deal.

It covers a third of the global economy and markets of more than 600 million people.

The ambitious trade pact, which creates the world's largest open economic area, comes amid fears that a trade war between the U.S. and China will diminish the role of free trade in the global economic order.

"This is an act of enormous strategic importance for the rules-based worldwide order, at a time when some are questioning this order", Tusk said. It's also a major endorsement of a global trading system that is under increasing threat from protectionism.

The deal will bring down the prices for European wine, pork and cheeses for Japanese consumers, while made-in-Japan machinery parts, tea and fish will become cheaper for Europeans.

As with China on Monday, the European Union also insisted with Japan on the "crucial role" of maintaining the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the basis of the multilateral trading system, with a commitment to reform it.

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The deal removes "about 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods sold to the European Union", according to The Associated Press.

Duties will be scrapped for cheeses as well as on wine. Japan is also especially interested in eliminating tariffs on industrial products and improvement of regulatory issues.

President Juncker added that there would be an immediate tariff elimination of up to 4% on over 90% of Japanese auto part and of all tariffs on cars within the next seven years.

Brexit has also weighed on the minds of Tokyo trade negotiators.

The EPA took over four years of negotiations in which both sides faced difficulties regarding procedures to settle investment disputes between companies and governments.

While the deal was largely agreed, its ceremonial signing was delayed because Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled a visit to Brussels in the wake of the tragic death of more than 200 people after flooding and landslides in southwestern Japan earlier this month. Japan's global economic affairs ambassador, Yoichi Suzuki, previously said it was a "very high priority that the deal enter before the end of March 2019". The White House has imposed tariffs on EU steel and aluminum imports and has threatened to target European cars next.

The Economic Partnership Agreement between Europe and Japan remains subject to ratification by the European Parliament and the Japanese Diet following which it could enter into force as early as 2019.

It said: "Tariffs on beef will be cut from 38.5% to 9% over 15 years for a large volume of beef products".

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