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Japan and EU to Reach Free Trade Pact in Response to US Protectionism

Japan has no plans of letting the U.S. and its present protectionist approach to things get in its way.

The country has been very vocal about marching ahead with the Trans-Pacific Partnership despite the U.S. withdrawal, and now Japanese negotiators are meeting with E.U. counterparts to close in on a trade deal expected to put the U.S. at a disadvantage.

Europe and Japan—which combined represent a quarter of the world’s economy—have been discussing a free trade deal since 2013, but President Trump may just have been the impetus to get that deal signed in what might be as little as a few weeks.

The trade deal, according to a draft of the agreement obtained and released by Greenpeace (which found the deal lacking in some environmental areas), will give both countries better access to key industries, remove structural barriers to trade and it reaffirms each side’s commitment to the U.S.-abandoned Paris climate accord.

In a statement to The New York Times addressing the released trade deal documents, the European Commission said, “The negotiators are now in permanent contact at all levels to conclude an agreement as soon as possible.”

The statement continued: “In the current national environment, an ambitious E.U.-Japan deal would send a powerful signal to the rest of the world that two of the largest economies are resisting protectionism and that openness to trade and investment remains one of the best tools to harness and shape globalization and create more economic growth and jobs.”

The move could end up leaving the U.S. in the dust while it tries to promote its America First policies. Windows may be opening left and right for other nations to further their foothold in areas the U.S. backs out of, and the country may not end up being the trade power President Trump hopes it will be.

In particular, an EU-Japan trade deal could put U.S. businesses at a disadvantage in the Japanese market, as they’d be up against European counterparts not subject to tariffs and restrictions. Some have said the trade deal may even give Japan some leverage in trying to get the U.S. back into TPP.

[Read more about Japan’s efforts with TPP: Japan Moves to Activate TPP Without US]

Though reports indicate the E.U.-Japan deal is nearing a close, it will still face the hurdle of being ratified by national and regional parliaments across the E.U.—which has already proven trying in the past—and also by the Japanese government.