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EU and Japan agree on outline for free-trade deal

[JURIST] The EU and Japan formally agreed upon an outline on Thursday for a free-trade deal between two of the world's largest economic powers. Although the deal still requires further negotiations, it is expected [AFP report] that 99 percent of trade deals between Japan and the EU will be liberalized. Additionally, the outline calls for [BBC report] the two entities to cooperate on other issues such as fighting climate change. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe [BBC profile] met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, Belgium on the eve the G20 summit meeting to sign the deal which has been in planning stages since 2012. The deal gained momentum due to an increase in protectionist policies and the withdrawal [JURIST report] of the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) [NYT backgrounder]. Japan and other Asia-Pacific members of the TPP agreed to move forward [JURIST report] with their deal despite the US backing out. Proponents of the deal between Japan and the EU hope it will send a clear message that many highly-developed democracies are still committed to free trade partnerships that will benefit a global economy.

International trade involving the US has been a point of contention under the Trump administration. The move to withdraw from the TPP represented a fulfillment of a campaign promise [JURIST report] for Trump, and a repudiation of one of former president Barack Obama's most ambitious accomplishments, first passed in June of 2015 [JURIST report]. A statement [text] on the official White House website suggests that the president intended to use a threat of similar withdrawal from NAFTA [official website] to renegotiate the trade deal with Canada and Mexico. In May Robert Lighthizer sent a letter [JURIST report] to Congress communicating the Trump administration's intention to begin the process of renegotiating. However, concerns remain that withdrawing or threatening to do so from such trade deals such like the TPP could ultimately be to the nation's detriment long term; Senator John McCain issued a statement [text] concerning the TPP cancellation, calling it a "serious mistake" that will have "lasting consequences" for America's economy.

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