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EU-Japan Trade Agreement: we demand people before profits!

On Tuesday 17 July, Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk signed trade agreement JEFTA on behalf of European Union, a new free trade agreement with Japan, the biggest economy the European Union ever signed such an agreement with. FYEG calls the European Parliament to reject this dangerous trade deal.

Just like CETA (Europe’s trade agreement with Canada), TTIP (trade agreement that used to be negotiated with the USA) or the EU-Singapore Trade Agreement, JEFTA aims at boosting trade and investment between the EU and Japan, ignoring the social and environmental cost of such boost. 

The first way to do this is by reducing custom tariffs between the two blocks. This has been highly criticized by farmers’ movements in Japan. European agroindustry is indeed planning to massively increase exports to Japan, which would put japanese small-scale and family farms in danger. In exchange, Japan managed to have easier access to European market for made-in-Japan cars. 

But, like CETA, this trade agreement goes far beyond custom tariffs and it includes many investment facilitation measures. Among others, it  includes mechanisms aiming at reducing differences between European and Japanese environmental and consumer-protection standards. These mechanisms would contribute towards leveling down European Standards and prevent the European Union from adopting stronger legislation in the future. 

On the other side, JEFTA doesn’t include any provisions regarding climate, and also doesn’t plan any sanctions for not-respecting European environmental and consumer-protection legislation.

Additionally, the mode of deciding on JEFTA has been amended, following the CETA experiences as CETA is currently facing important opposition coming from EU member states that need to ratify the text. In Austria, the Green President Van der Bellen decided not to allow the ratification of CETA by the  country yet. 

Aiming to avoid  a democratic debate based on a legitimate criticism of the text, the European Commission decided to bypass national parliaments with JEFTA. It did so by separating JEFTA into two agreements and excluding from the current version the few chapters that would have required national parliaments to approve the text. The European Parliament will therefore be the only parliament to have its say over JEFTA. 

FYEG calls for the rejection of this text and a new reorientation of EU trade policy. The EU should negotiate trade deals that do not aim at increasing trade and investments but use its trade policy to ensure and promote higher social and environmental and consumer-protection standards both within Europe and other countries.