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[BRUSSELS] The European Union and Japan will hold a summit meeting Thursday expecting to reach a "political agreement" on a trade deal after four years of negotiations, the EU announced Tuesday.
"EU-Japan Summit on Thursday. Ambitious free and fair trade deal in the making," European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted.
"At the summit, leaders are expected to announce a political agreement on the EU-Japan free trade agreement and the EU-Japan strategic partnership agreement," a statement said separately.
The meeting will be attended by Mr Tusk, EU Commission chief Jean Claude Juncker and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
After four years of negotiations, the two sides are working toward inking a deal ahead of the G20 in Hamburg at the weekend, hoping to send a "strong signal" in favour of free-trade agreements that contrasts with US President Donald Trump's protectionist "America First" stance.
Trump, who will also attend the G20, pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year, dealing a possibly fatal blow to the mooted 12-nation deal.
At this stage, the EU and Japan are expected to reach only a "political agreement" on the trade deal, which would then be formally signed at the end of the autumn.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem and Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan visited Tokyo last week for two days of urgent talks with Japanese officials, while Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is expected in Brussels for final negotiations on Wednesday.
He described the talks as "very tough" but expressed his "firm determination" to reach an overall agreement.
Last week, Mr Malmstroem said the package would "tear down almost all customs duties between us that are worth a lot of money, billions actually".
EU exports to Japan overall "could be boosted by one third" and a deal would send a "strong signal to the rest of the world that the EU and Japan believe in free trade," she said.
Tariffs on European cheese have been a key sticking point in the talks.
Brussels wants Japan to eliminate its 30 per cent tariffs on some EU-made cheese, while Tokyo wants duties cut on cars which it exports to the 28-member bloc.
The EU and Japanese economies combined account for some 28 per cent of global output.