Japan and the European Union (EU) began a new phase in their trade relations on Friday when the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) entered into force, becoming the largest trade deal in the world. The agreement, predicated on tariff elimination, offers a clear message against the rising trend of protectionism that is gaining ground in other areas of the world.

The EPA, finalized by the two parties in December of 2017, covers the largest commercial area in the world, accounting for 36.9% of global trade and 27.8% of the world’s gross domestic product.

For Japan, a country that has made clear its commitment to free trade, the EPA represents an additional step towards multilateralism in the global market. The EPA follows the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which entered into force on December 30, 2018.

The president of the European Commission (EC), Jean-Claude Juncker, highlighted not only the practical advantages that this agreement will offer European and Japanese consumers, but also the political message it brings. "Our agreement shows that trade is about more than quotas and tariffs, or millions and billions. It is about values, principles and fairness," said Juncker.

The agreement promises to eliminate tariffs on 99% of the products that the countries of the EU import from Japan, and 94% the products that Japan imports from the EU, starting February  1.

If you want to learn more about the EU-Japan trade deal, visit the EC press release, euronews, Nikkei Asian Review, and BBC.