As Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin exchanged potentially treasonous words and, um, a football at a press conference in Helsinki this week, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and European Union leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker were doing some trade of their own. On Tuesday, the two sides signed a landmark deal that will eliminate nearly all tariffs on products traded between Japan and the EU. This includes machinery parts, pharmaceuticals, handbags—and food and drink.
Tusk announced the agreement between Japan and the EU at Abe’s office in Tokyo, calling it “the largest bilateral trade deal ever.” He also implied that the two powers were countering the isolationist stance of Trump, who has moved to hike tariffs on imports from US trading partners.
“Let me say that today is a good day not only for all the Japanese and Europeans, but for all reasonable people of this world who believe in mutual respect and cooperation,” Tusk said. He continued: “This is an act of enormous strategic importance for the rules-based international order, at a time when some are questioning this order.”
It’s also pretty important for Japanese lovers of Brie and Europeans who enjoy a glass of Yamazaki single malt. The trade deal is still subject to legislative approval in both Japan and the EU, but once ratified, will eliminate 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods sold in Europe and 94 percent of tariffs on European exports to Japan, with the plan to extend to this 99 percent.
This will result in cheaper food and alcohol for both Japanese and European consumers. Japan is the EU’s second biggest trading partner in Asia after China, and wine is a key export. The country bought 1.7 million hectolitres of European wine last year, according to EU figures. The current tariff on imported wine in Japan is 15 percent.
In Europe, industry experts are predicting a boost for the Scotch whisky industry, whose exports to Japan grew to £82 million by customs value in 2016. The reduced tariffs on Japanese imports will also result in cheaper tea, Kobe beef, and notoriously delicious Yubari melons for European consumers.
Beats a football any day.