Stephen Biegun, Ford vice president of international governmental affairs, claimed that Japan is not truly interested in opening up its economy to imports. In an interview with Reuters in Brussels, Biegun said that the upcoming free-trade negotiations between Japan and the European Union are a "masquerade." Japan will commence trade talks with the EU later this March.
The Japanese prime minister remarked Friday that the Asian country would seek to join talks on a U.S.-led Pacific free-trade agreement, which could be finalized by the end of 2013. Although several industries in the EU – from pharmaceuticals to retail -- support trade talks with Japan, the automotive sector has its own concerns, saying that any agreement would only be favorable to the Asian country.
Biegun told Reuters that Ford was a great advocate of free trade, as long as it was truly free. He remarked that it becomes challenging for them when a negotiation “masquerades as a free-trade agreement."
Biegun told Reuters that in the case of South Korea and Japan, the talks can be called free-trade negotiations. He, however, noted that the intention of the negotiating party with Europe is not to adopt a two-way trade. According to Biegun, no one believed that Europe’s vehicle exports to Japan would increase after a deal. On the other hand, the free-trade agreement between South Korea and EU became effective in mid-2011.
European car manufacturers association ACEA refers to a Deloitte study predicting that EU exports to Japan could jump by around 8,000 units by 2020, while Japan’s exports to EU could surge by 443,000 units, leading to possibly 35,000 to 73,000 job cuts in Europe. Japan currently has zero import duties on car imports and the discussions are expected to concentrate on non-tariff barriers, like differences in regulations between vehicles accepted in the different markets.