As the world’s third largest national economy, and a major global trader and investor, it’s no surprise that Japan is one of the EU’s key trading partners. With the 21st EU-Japan Summit being held today, it’s important to reiterate the value of this relationship – especially as part of the Summit aims to review the progress of negotiations surrounding a free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and Japan. As EFPIA’s Director of Trade Policy, I believe we have a great opportunity at hand – one not to be missed by unnecessary delays.
The negotiations leading to this moment launched in April 2013 – and the decision to undertake them was very carefully considered. What would be the merits of such an agreement? What could be the potential outcomes and how realistically ambitious could they be? What tangible objectives could be set within a short timeframe? The answers to these questions proved optimistic to pursue an ambitious agreement and both EU and Japan committed to undertake negotiations bearing in mind that progress on tackling non-tariff barriers would be a decisive factor for success.
For EFPIA, representing the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe, a comprehensive and ambitious FTA is an obvious pro. Japan and the EU are both pharma powerhouses, with Japan representing the second largest national pharma market in the world and accounting for 12 percent of the global market. Many of our member companies and associations have affiliates in Japan – and EFPIA even has its own representation in Japan.
Even more important is the consideration that closer relations between EU and Japan can boost global drug development – and thereby help improve outcomes for patients. By facilitating collaboration and creating new market opportunities for both Japanese and European pharmaceutical companies, the FTA could help bring innovative medicines to both markets more efficiently. As the two regulatory frameworks are brought closer together, we can also cut through the unnecessary red tape that often stands in the way of efficient access to medicines. A good example is the “vaccines gap” between the EU and Japan; greater harmonization of the regulation governing EU and Japanese vaccines policies would be a step towards bridging this gap.
With this in mind, the benefits that a high-reaching FTA between Japan and the EU could hold are clear. This is not the only sector that stands to benefit, however – quite the opposite, as can be seen from the variety of industries that signed on to last week’s joint statement calling on the FTA negotiations to aim high. Why the need to band these voices together? It’s important to remember that after one year of negotiations, the progress of the FTA negotiations will be assessed – and if deemed insufficient, can put the FTA at risk. We must avoid this scenario. Otherwise we will find ourselves missing out on a great opportunity, for all involved.0