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EU trade chief calls on Japan to accelerate market access talks
[TOKYO] EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Thursday called on Japan to accelerate negotiations on tariffs and market access to create potentially one of the world's biggest free trade deals.
Officials from the two sides had held productive talks and Japan had made some progress in agreeing to regulations that would lift non-tariff barriers, but removing barriers for services and procurement remained unresolved, she said.
"We need to enter a more intensive phase of negotiations," Ms Malmstrom told reporters in Tokyo. "There is a lot of work to be done to unlock potential trade with Japan."
Ms Malmstrom made the comments ahead of a EU-Japan summit to be held on Friday in Tokyo.
Japan has been locked in negotiations with the United States for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a US free trade proposal that would link 12 economies.
An agreement to form TPP should give Japanese negotiators the momentum to negotiate a deal with the European Union, Ms Malmstrom said.
Japan is Europe's seventh most important trading partner, accounting for 3 per cent of EU trade outside the bloc last year, EU data show.
A free trade agreement could help Europe gain some economic momentum as it struggles to put an end to a sovereign debt crisis that grips Greece and some other southern countries.
Creating a free trade pact with the EU could also benefit Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he has said free trade can be used to encourage more competition and structural reforms in Japan.