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Japan may sign EPA with EU in Brussels in mid-July

Japan and the European Union are in talks on holding a signing ceremony in Brussels in mid-July for an economic partnership agreement to facilitate free trade, according to an EU source.

The source said the two sides are considering arranging a summit in the Belgian capital on July 11, and Japanese and EU leaders are expected to sign the pact at the meeting, Japan Times reported on Friday.

Meanwhile, another source said that the schedule has not been fixed yet, indicating that the two sides are continuing talks.

Protectionist moves are starting to spread around the world, such as the introduction of additional steel and aluminum tariffs by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump last month.

Through the signing, Japan and the EU apparently hope to reaffirm their intentions to fight protectionism. The two sides wrapped up their EPA negotiations last December.

The European Commission, the executive organ of the EU, has produced a final draft of documents on the pact and plans to distribute it to member nations shortly. The documents are expected to be approved at an EU summit in June.

The creation of an investment dispute settlement mechanism, a sticky issue in the EPA negotiations, was separated from the draft as Japan and the EU prioritized putting the pact into effect at an early opportunity.

As a result, ratification procedures are expected to become unnecessary at the assemblies of all EU member nations and some related regions, possibly helping pave the way for the EPA to take effect by March 2019, as targeted by Japan and the EU, analysts said.

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