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Here’s what to expect at this week’s UN General Assembly opening – Trump’s debut

The power of the so-called multipolar world will be the real ‘star’ of this years General Assembly, even as the cameras will be fixed on Donald Trump.

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World leaders are beginning to gather in New York where they will attend the opening of this year’s session of the UN General Assembly. This year is particularly significant as it will be Donald Trump’s first address to the UN General Assembly since becoming President of the United States in January of this year. However, Trump may well be overshadowed by other events and consequently, by other nations.

Here are the things to look out for

Pronounced US isolation 

As the least experienced leader of a major world power, Donald Trump has a great burden on his shoulders. He will be facing not only the ire of a world increasingly upset with US attempts to impose its will on the wider world but he will also be facing a generation of fellow world-leaders who came of age on the world stage during the post-9/11 era of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

This is significant as it has been during this time that the US has implemented an aggressive foreign policy which puts into practice, the neo-con agenda which was first developed in the 1990s. America has been constantly at war ever since 2016 and in the process, US actions have led to the execution of two well known world leaders, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.

READ MORE: 6 MAJOR US foreign policy failures of the post-Cold War era

Donald Trump campaigned on a very sensible platform which broadly stated that the neo-con foreign policies of both G.W. Bush and Obama were failures and that the US would change course under a Trump administration.

Thus far, this has not happened. Instead, the US maintains an illegal presence in Syria while Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the UN, touts regime change in Syria, even now. Beyond this, Trump has approved a troop surge in Afghanistan, a 16 year war which is the longest in US history. It was a war Trump had previously said was a failure and he would withdraw from, during the campaign.

Now, the US is threatening regime change in North Korea, as Nikki Haley goes on yet another anti-Pyongyang rampage. This is happen while Haley’s boss, Rex Tillerson, insists that the US is not after regime change in North Korea. The chaos is no longer amusing for the wider world.

Donald Trump, a man who himself has no foreign policy experience, will have to defend not only the arrogant statements of the permanently unhinged Nikki Haley, but also the deeply unpopular legacy of his two immediate predecessors, a legacy which Trump has failed fully reject in power, even though he promised to do so during his campaign.

The biggest question remaining for Trump is as follows: will he try to re-package the old neo-con policies to make them appear different, or will it be more of the same arrogance, exceptionalism and bellicosity from yet another American leader?

Russia

Russia can and almost certainly will walk into this year’s General Assembly with a feeling of confidence and a quiet, understated mood of victory. Syria’s victory against Salafist/jihadist terrorists is now assured and a substantial reason for this has undoubtedly been Russia’s legal intervention in the conflict.

Beyond Syria, Russia’s geo-political leadership has secured new partnerships with Turkey and Pakistan, while economic as well as geo-political cooperation has strengthen Russia’s modern alliance with China.

Even in the part of the Arab world that has traditionally had the least friendly policies towards Russia, the Persian Gulf, leaders throughout the region have praised Russia’s neutral and constructive role in the ongoing crisis between the Saudi led quartet and Qatar.

In this sense, the overarching role of global leadership that the US claims for itself, has been quietly taken by Russia. Russia knows this and the Russian address to the General Assembly will without doubt reflect this.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke before the UN in 2015, he was highly critical of America’s foreign policy, though without specifically naming names. This year, Russia will if anything speak with even increased confidence in this respect, knowing that the US has not taken heed of any warnings previously issued, something which is if anything, magnified by the fact that Donald Trump’s ‘project reconciliation’ with Russia has amounted to little.

Russia might also explain its leadership in respect of East Asia, by affirming its desire to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula through cooperative initiatives involving both Korean states.

Finally, Russia will almost certainly reiterate its calls for a UN peacekeeping force to be sent to Donbass, something which has been widely praised in Europe, particularly in Germany. This could be the beginning of the end of major obstacles between Russia and the European Union, even as Russia’s primary partners are now in Asia.

China

China will look to emphasise the theme of peace through prosperity in what will amount to a calm elucidation of the benefits of One Belt–One Road to the growing economies of Asia and Africa. In this sense, China will send an implied message to India and other states who remain sceptical of One Belt–One Road, restating that the initiative is purely voluntary and will serve the best interests of all participating states.

China will also almost certainly emphasise its revolution in renewable energy which is being watched by business leaders and environmental activists the world over with great interest, in spite of a near complete blackout in the western mainstream media.

China will likely also touch on its opposition to violence on any side, in respect of the Korean peninsula.

Syria and Iraq 

Both Syria and Iraq will, in a unique moment in history, offer similar statements in many ways. Both will speak of the importance of national unity, in a not so thinly veiled opposition to Kurdish nationalism and each will try to reclaim the victory over terrorism from international actors who are often credited with fighting the battle by various elements in the media. In the later instance, Syria will have a stronger case than Iraq, in many ways.

Syria in particular, may use the UN to re-define the Arabism which underpins Ba’athism. President Bashar al-Assad has recently spoken of the fact that all Syrians whether Muslim or Christian are an indefensible part of the fabric of Syria.

Now that Syria is on the verge of victory, Syria will likely be clear in re-stating the fact that it is the last major Arab country to hold true to the revolutionary belief system of Ba’athism and Arab Nationalism more widely.

Both Syria and Iraq will also likely emphasise the importance of the wider world respecting their sovereignty so that conflict can be erased from the lands of each state.

India and Myanmar 

Both the internal and geo-political events surrounding India will help to shape an Indian address that seeks to position New Delhi as an economic and also moral leader of the Asian world and wider so-called developing world.

In this sense, the rhetorical pragmatism of China will be countered by a not so subtly ideological speech from India.

In this sense, India will present itself as the Asian power best place to bring prosperity to Africa and settle disputes in South East Asia. None of this will amuse China, but nor will China be particularly surprised.

Whether overtly or subliminally, India will almost certainly come out in favour of the actions taken by the government of Myanmar, more strongly than any other country.

Look out for many anti-terrorist cliches combined with an almost holier than thou attitude which implies that India is Asia. This will be a clear indication of the speech being a kind of self-coronation of India’s Premier Modi, one which likely won’t be received quite as warmly as Modi hopes.

While Prime Minister Modi will almost certainly deliver the Indian address, it has already been confirmed that Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi will skip the event. Myanmar can nevertheless use the General Assembly to calmly explain the situation regarding the Rohingya crisis in a manner which sheds light on the complex realities of the situation while offering genuine sympathy for the deaths that have been caused in the fog of a long civil war.

Myanmar thus far has not had the best public relations tactics in respect of the crisis. The combination of insularity on behalf of Myanmar’s military leadership, known as the Tatmadaw, combined with Aung San Suu Kyi’s inexperience in a genuine position of needing to be a communicator, has often let the country down.

Myanmar must be calm in rejecting the more outlandish claims about its internal conflict while also not callously brushing aside the fears of the wider Muslim world, which are genuine even when based on half-truths. In this respect, Myanmar could help to create a new diplomatic narrative on the crisis, but it is doubtful this will happen and India in trying to help, might only do harm in portraying the conflict as a ‘Muslim versus everyone else’ conflict, which the Civil War in Myanmar is most certainly not.

READ MORE: Understanding the Myanmar/Rohingya conflict is best achieved through understanding international non-alignment

Pakistan 

Pakistan’s speech may catch the United States off guard more so than any other. The tentative US ally has been very public with its anger over Trump administration claims that Pakistan harbours terrorism and that in this sense it presents a problem for Afghanistan. All political parties in Pakistan consider these remarks to be gravely insulting to the country which has suffered the most due to the largely US authored instability in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The threat of cutting off economic aid to a country that has sacrificed a great deal to placate the United States has added insult to injury.

Pakistan’s most important ally is undoubtedly China and the larges sums of monetary and infrastructural investment that China has poured into Pakistan, have given Islamabad both the courage and an economic insurance policy, which has already allowed Pakistani leaders to say what they really feel about the United States.

For those who do not realise that Pakistan now looks to Beijing for partnerships rather than Washington, Pakistan’s speech may be a rude awakening.

Iran

Iran’s address will almost certainly be a combination of confidence and anger. Where former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once used his General Assembly speech to argue the case for US involvement in the 9/11 atrocities, today’s Iranian leadership will likely focus on the broader issues of Iranian development and geo-political relations.

Being on the winning side of the wider Middle East war against Takfiri terrorism, has already greatly enhanced Iran’s prestige in many parts of the Arab world and its growing partnerships beyond in Arab world with China, Russia, Turkey and even Pakistan, mean that Iran is more connected to the wider world than at any time since the Revolution of 1979.

With the Trump administration tearing up the 2013 JCPOA (aka nuclear deal) in all but name and with threats from the White House to formally reject the JCPOA at any moment, Iran ought to take the high road and demonstrate how Theran has been in full compliance with the deal according to the US State Department, the UN and the EU.

A calm approach to explaining how the US is guilty of violating the deal while Iran has acted in good faith is essential.

Even if Iran is impassioned in its expressions of disappointment with the US over the deal, this will still achieve largely the same effect.

Interestingly, the US could use Iran’s decidedly anti-Myanmar narrative in respect of the Rohingya crisis to try and exploit a possible schism between Iran and its non-Muslim partners. But as things stand, America’s tunnel-vision on Iran will prevent Washington from exploiting this openly.

Turkey and Israel 

Both powers who share a common Eastern Mediterranean region are moving in entirely different directions. Turkey is moving closer to Iran and its regional partners while Israel is moving closer to Saudi Arabia and its regional allies. Furthermore, with Israel coming out unambiguously in favour of a Kurdish state on Turkey’s borders, it only remains to be seen which country can restrain its passions more on the Kurdish issue.

In the event, Turkey will almost certainly refer to its security concerns in respect of a Kurdish state and in doing so, will be speaking in an ironically singular voice with Syria and Iraq, while Israel will almost certainly allude to sharing similar ‘ideals’ with Kurdish nationalists.

WIth America’s two traditional regional allies coming out on opposite sides of key issues, the US State Department will need to engage in heavy behind the scenes damage control. The fact that Donald Trump is having several meetings with the leader of the Israeli regime but  none with President Erdogan of Turkey, is itself, telling of the fact that the US will continue to do little to assure Turkey of its very legitimate fears on the Kurdish issue.

Philippines 

Popular Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has crossed swords with the UN on many occasions, particularly in relation to his law and order approach to the dangerous drug problem in his country. With the armed forces of Philippines on the verge of a military victory against ISIS aligned terrorists in the country which itself has shown the dangerous connections between the narcotics trade and the financing of terrorism which Duterte had previously warned about, it will be imperative for Philippines to use the General Assembly to drawn an unambiguous connection between drugs and terrorism.

Venezuela 

In 2006, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez famously called George W. Bush “the devil” and remarked that the podium of the General Assembly Hall.

This year, Venezuela’s predictably harsh criticisms of the United States will likely be a slamming of unilateral US sanctions which in recent weeks and months have been passed on the oil rich South American nation.

Look for Venezuela to invite other nations to begin trading their national commodities in currencies other than the US Dollar while praising allies who have stood by Caracas against the US onslaught.

CONCLUSION

There are of course many other nations that will speak at the UN General Assembly, but this piece has covered those which have been in the news due to their participation in wider geo-political conflicts or conflict resolution.

While Donald Trump is making his UN debut, the real star of this years show will undoubtedly be multi-polarity.

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While US seeks to up the ante on pressure on the DPRK, Russia proposes easing sanctions

These proposals show the dichotomy between the philosophy of US and Russian foreign policy

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The United States last week accused the DPRK of violating refined petroleum caps imposed as a part of UN nuclear sanctions dating back to 2006, and is therefore submitting a proposal to cut all petroleum product sales to North Korea.

The Trump administration is keen on not only preserving pressure on North Korea over its nuclear arms development, but in increasing that pressure even as DPRK Chairman, Kim Jong-Un, is serially meeting with world leaders in a bid to secure North Korea’s security and potential nuclear disarmament, a major move that could deescalate tensions in the region, end the war with the South, and ease global apprehensions about the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, Russia is proposing to the UNSC sanctions relief in some form due to the North’s expressed commitment to nuclear disarmament in the light of recent developments.

Reuters reports:

MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia’s envoy to North Korea said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the United Nations Security Council, as the United States pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.

“The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious,” said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea’s energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

China tried late last month to get the Security Council to issue a statement praising the June 12 Singapore meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressing its “willingness to adjust the measures on the DPRK in light of the DPRK’s compliance with the resolutions.”

North Korea’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

But the United States blocked the statement on June 28 given “ongoing and very sensitive talks between the United States and the DPRK at this time,” diplomats said. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about the importance of sanctions enforcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to informally brief U.N. Security Council envoys along with South Korea and Japan on Friday.

Diplomats say they expect Pompeo to stress the need to maintain pressure on North Korea during his briefing on Friday.

In a tweet on Wednesday Trump said he elicited a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin to help negotiate with North Korea but did not say how. He also said: “There is no rush, the sanctions remain!”

The United States accused North Korea last week of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.

The United States submitted the complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to decide by Thursday whether it will tell all U.N. member states to halt all transfers of refined petroleum to Pyongyang.

Such decisions are made by consensus and some diplomats said they expected China or Russia to delay or block the move.

When asked on June 13 about whether sanctions should be loosened, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We should be thinking about steps in that direction because inevitably there is progress on the track that should be reciprocal, that should be a two-way street. The other side should see encouragement to go forward.”

The proposals of both the United States and Russia are likely to be vetoed by each other, resulting no real changes, but what it displays is the foreign policy positions of both nuclear powers towards the relative position of the DPRK and its rhetorical move towards denuclearization. The US demonstrates that its campaign of increased pressure on the North is necessary to accomplishing the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while Russia’s philosophy on the matter is to show a mutual willingness to follow through on verbal commitment with a real show of action towards an improved relationship, mirroring on the ground what is happening in politics.

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Europe divided over possible trade compromise with Trump

Even if a European proposal could score a trade cease fire, the war isn’t over

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US President Donald Trump has just lectured NATO on it member’s commitment performance and held a controversial meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin and is next week to receive EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, with trade matters being high up on the agenda.

Juncker is expected to present Trump with a package of proposals to help smooth relations and potentially heal areas of division, particularly those surrounding Europe’s trade relationship with America. Those proposals are precisely what is cropping up as another area of divergence between some members of the EU, specifically France and Germany, just after a major contention on migration has been driving discord within the Union.

This gets down to whether Europe should offer concessions to Trump on trade while Trump is admittedly describing the Union as a ‘foe’ and has initiated a trade spat with the Union by assessing trade tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe, spurring retaliatory tariff measures from the EU Commission.

France, specifically, is opposed to any sort of compromise with Trump on the matter, where Trump is perceived as an opponent to the Union and its unity, whereas Germany is economically motivated to seek an end to the trade dispute under the threat of a new round of tariffs emanating from the Trump administration, and is therefore seeking to find some sort of proposal that Trump will accept and therefore back down on his protectionism against the EU, and Germany in particular.

Politico reports:

Only a week before European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker flies to Washington, France and Germany are divided over how much he should offer to U.S. President Donald Trump to end a deepening trade war, say European diplomats and officials.

But, they add, Germany has the upper hand. Berlin is shaping Juncker’s agenda, suggesting three offers that he could take to Trump on July 25 to resolve the dispute, according to people familiar with the plans.

The French are uneasy about the wisdom of such a conciliatory approach, however, and publicly accuse Trump of seeking to splinter and weaken the 28-member bloc, which he has called his “foe.”

Despite Paris’ reservations about giving away too much to the increasingly hostile U.S. president, the diplomats say that the European Commission’s powerful Secretary-General Martin Selmayr supports the German attempt at rapprochement, which makes it more likely that Juncker will offer some kind of trade fix next week.

“It’s clear that Juncker can’t go to Washington empty-handed,” one diplomat said. He stressed that Juncker’s proposals would be a political signal to Washington and would not be the formal beginning of negotiations, which would have to be approved by EU countries.

European ambassadors will meet on Wednesday to discuss the scope of Juncker’s offer — and indeed whether any offers should be made at all. France’s official position is that Europe must not strike any deal with a gun to its head, or with any country that has opted out of the Paris climate accord, as Trump’s America has done.

While Berlin is terrified by the prospect of 20 percent tariffs on cars and is desperate for a ceasefire deal, France has more fundamental suspicions that the time for compromise is over and that Trump simply wants to destroy EU unity. Paris is concerned that Trump’s next target is its sacred farm sector and is putting more emphasis on the importance of preserving a united political front against Washington.

Two diplomats said Berlin has a broad menu of offers that should be made to Trump: a bilateral deal to cut industrial tariffs, a plurilateral agreement to eliminate car duties worldwide, and a bigger transatlantic trade agreement including regulatory cooperation that potentially also comes with talks on increasing U.S. beef exports into Europe.

Making such generous offers is contentious when Trump crystallized his trade position toward Brussels on CBS news on Sunday: “I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe.”

This undiplomatic bombshell came not long after he reportedly advised French President Emmanuel Macron to quit the EU to get a better trade deal than he was willing to offer the EU28.

In announcing Juncker’s visit on Tuesday, the White House said that he and Trump “will focus on improving transatlantic trade and forging a stronger economic partnership.”

Talking to the enemy

Diplomats note that a French-led camp in Brussels reckons Trump’s goals are strategic, and that he’s not after the sort of deal Germany is offering.

A French government official said that Washington quite simply wants to shift the EU off the stage: “Trump’s objective is that there are two big blocs: The United States and China. A multipower world with Europe as a strong player does not fit in.”

France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire this month also issued a stark warning that Trump is seeking to drive a wedge between France and Germany — courting Paris, while simultaneously attacking Berlin’s trade surplus with the U.S. “In this globalized world, European countries must form a bloc, because what our partners or adversaries want is to divide us,” Le Maire said at an economic conference in Aix-en-Provence. “What the United States want, that’s to divide France and Germany.”

Despite these remarks from Le Maire, Anthony Gardner, former ambassador to the EU under the Barack Obama administration, said that he suspects the full magnitude of the threat has not sunk in. “Europe wake up; the U.S. wants to break up the EU,” he tweeted on Sunday. “Remember Belgium’s motto: L’union fait la force. [Unity creates strength]. Especially on trade. No side deals.”

One EU diplomat insisted that Brussels is not blind to these dangers in the run-up to Juncker’s visit.

Trump thinks that Europe is “too big to be controllable by DC, so it’s bad for America. Simple logic. And therefore the only deal that will bring the president to stop the trade war is the deal that breaks up the European market. I don’t quite think that’s the legacy Juncker is aiming for,” the diplomat said.

Europe is source of a deep frustration for Trump, as it runs a massive goods surplus with the U.S., at $147 billion in 2016. In particular, the U.S. president blames Germany’s mighty car exporters for this imbalance.

Leveling the field is not easy, however. With its market of 510 million consumers, Europe not only has the clout to stand up to the United States, but is increasingly setting global standards — particularly on food. This not only limits U.S. exports in Europe but also means that the European model is used in a broader trading ecosystem that includes Canada, Mexico and Japan.

New world order

Marietje Schaake, a liberal Dutch member of the European Parliament, observed that the U.S. trade strategy meshed with Trump’s political agenda.

“You could say there’s a new transatlantic relation emerging, of nationalists, populists and protectionists,” she said, pointing out that Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin has cast doubt on America’s commitment to supporting European security.

Trump’s opposition to the EU partly builds on an long-standing American discomfort about the EU’s economic policies.

“We already saw problems during the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, where the U.S. didn’t like EU demands such as on geographical indications [food name protections], and certainly didn’t like that we had ambitious requests in areas like public procurement,” said Pascal Kerneis, managing director of the European Services Forum and a member of the now defunct TTIP advisory group.

Kerneis said that Trump’s trade attacks are shifting the tensions to a completely new level: “He’s attacking on all fronts, hoping to break our unity, particularly between Germany and France.”

France particularly fears that Trump’s duties on Spanish olives could only be the first salvo on Europe’s whole system of farm subsidies.

EU lawmaker Schaake said that France is right to worry about a conflagration. “Once we give in in one area, he will attack at the next one,” she said. “If we allow Trump to play Europeans against each other, sector by sector, it will be a losing game.”

Even if Europe goes about capitulating to Trump’s gripes about the Union, whether it gets back to NATO defense spending or the trade deficit, the question remains whether this will satiate Trump’s political appetite and result in an improved trade perspective and politically acceptable position with Washington, and France’s concern that the matter runs deeper and has a foreign policy agenda behind it, and that caving to Trump’s pressure will only end in defeat for the EU would therefore appear reasonable.

But Germany is staring down the barrel of a possible new round of tariffs that would hurt some of their largest industries and is therefore under a lot of pressure to find a solution, or at least some sort of agreement that could deescalate the situation.

However, Germany’s recent record of resolving international issues is such that Germany is really only scoring cease fire agreements, rather than ending the real political conflicts, referring mainly to the immigration issue which recently resulted only in diffusing some inter Union tensions, but without resolving the problem itself.

In this context, Germany could promise the moon and stars to Trump, possibly avert further trade tensions, but yet fail to address the core political and trade conflicts that have already broken out. Essentially, then, such a compromise would only serve to function as damage control, while leaving Germany and the Union at a further disadvantaged political position relative to the States at the political table.

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EU and Japan ink free trade deal representing over 30% of global GDP

The free trade agreement represents a victory for free trade in the face of growing protectionism

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In a bid to preserve free trade and strengthen their trade partnership, the European Union and Japan have finished a free trade zone agreement that has been sitting in the pipeline for years.

The present global economic outlook provided the needed spur to action to get the ball rolling again and now it has finally reached the end zone and scored another point for free and open trade against the growing influence of protectionism, which has been creeping up with alarming rapidity and far reaching consequences in recent months.

Under the deal, Japan will scrap tariffs on some 94% of goods imported from Europe and the EU in turn is canning 99% of tariffs on Japanese goods.

Between the European Union and Japan, the trade deal impacts about 37% of the world’s GDP, making it one of the largest and impactful of such agreements.

The Japan Times reports:

Top European Union leaders and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed an economic partnership agreement Tuesday in Tokyo, a pact that will create a massive free trade zone accounting for 37 percent of the world’s trade by value.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hastily arranged their visit to Tokyo after Abe was forced to abruptly cancel plans to attend a July 11 signing ceremony in Brussels in the aftermath of flooding and mudslides in western Japan.

Japanese officials said the signing is particularly important to counter intensifying protectionism worldwide triggered by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Negotiations on the pact between Japan and the EU, which started in 2013, had stagnated for a time but regained momentum after Trump took office in January 2017.

“We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism,” Tusk said at a joint news conference with Abe after they signed the agreement.

“The relationship between the EU and Japan has never been stronger. Geographically we are far apart, but politically and economically we could be hardly any closer,” Tusk said. “I’m proud today we are taking our strategic partnership to a new level.”

Tusk stressed that the EU and Japan are partners sharing the same basic values, such as liberal democracy, human rights and rule-based order.

Abe also emphasized the importance of free and fair trade.

“Right now, concerns are rising over protectionism all around the world. We are sending out a message emphasizing the importance of a trade system based on free and fair rules,” he said.

The pact will create a free trade bloc accounting for roughly 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Japan and the EU hope to have the agreement, which still needs to be ratified by both parties, come into force by March.

Under the EPA, tariffs on about 99 percent of Japan’s exported goods to the EU will eventually be eliminated, while duties on 94 percent of EU’s exported items to Japan will be abolished, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The EPA will eliminate duties of 10 percent on Japan’s auto exports to the EU seven years after the pact takes effect. The current 15 percent duties on wine imports from the EU will be eliminated immediately, while those on cheese, pork and beef will be sharply cut.

In total, the EPA will push up domestic GDP by 1 percent, or ¥5 trillion a year, and create 290,000 new jobs nationwide, according to the government.

“The world is now facing raging waves of protectionism. So the signing ceremony at this time is particularly meaningful,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said earlier this month on condition of anonymity.

“The impact for Japan is big,” the official said.

Fukunari Kimura, an economics professor at Keio University, said the EU is now trying to accelerate the ratification process.

“This is a repercussion of President Trump’s policies. They will try to ratify it before Brexit in March of next year,” he said in an interview with The Japan Times last week.

But the deal has raised concerns among some domestic farmers, in particular those from Hokkaido, the country’s major dairy producer.

According to an estimate by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, the EPA will cut national production in the agriculture, fishery and forestry industries by up to ¥114.3 billion a year, with Hokkaido accounting for 34 percent of the predicted losses.

“The sustainable development of the prefecture’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries is our top priority. We need to make efforts to raise our international competitiveness,” Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi said during a news conference July 10.

Japan and the EU had reached a basic agreement on the EPA in December.

Tokyo also led negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in January 2017.

In March, 11 countries including Japan signed the so-called TPP11, or a revised TPP pact that does not include the U.S.

“The Japan-EU EPA is another important step for Japan to strengthen its trade relationship with key trading partners, and demonstrate that trade liberalization is alive and well, even if the United States is taking a different stance,” wrote Wendy Cutler, a former acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative, in an email sent to The Japan Times last week.

“The EU deal also reduces Japanese dependence on the U.S. market and thus increases its leverage to resist unreasonable trade demands by the United States,” she wrote.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the EU, which accounts for 22 percent of the world’s GDP, was the destination for 11.4 percent of Japanese exports in 2016. In the same year, the figure for the U.S. was 20.2 percent and 17.7 percent for China.

In 2016, Japan’s exports to the EU totaled ¥8 trillion, while reciprocal trade was ¥8.2 trillion.

The deal provides tariff relief for both parties and can improve the quantity of trade between them, expand the economy and create many jobs. It also helps to further diversify their trade portfolios in order to mitigate the prospect of a single global trade partner wielding too much influence, which in turn provides a certain amount of cover from any adverse actions or demands from a single actor. In this way, current trade dependencies can be reduced and free and diversified trade is further bolstered.

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