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EU clears next round of Japan trade talks

The European Commission on Thursday said talks on a massive free trade agreement with Japan will resume next week in Tokyo after a review judged sufficient progress had been made so far.

BRUSSELS: The European Commission on Thursday said talks on a massive free trade agreement with Japan will resume next week in Tokyo after a review judged sufficient progress had been made so far.

The two sides have held five rounds of talks over a year and the Commission had decided to assess the progress amid doubts whether Japan would really open up its markets for everything from cars to food.

European Union member states on Wednesday agreed to continue the talks after taking the review into account, a Commission spokeswoman said.

"Only an agreement with a high level of ambition… especially in areas such as market access in goods, including agriculture, non-tariff measures, public procurement or geographical indications… will be acceptable to the EU," the spokeswoman said.

The EU and Japan launched the talks a year ago, aiming for a tie-up that would account for about 30 per cent of global economic output and 40 per cent of world trade.

As well as Japan, the EU is involved in a series of negotiations on free trade agreements with major partners such as the United States and India.

Japan too is in other talks, most notably on the 11-nation, US-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

On a visit to Europe in April, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on the EU to push ahead quickly with the negotiations, promising to do his part to ensure their success.

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