Japan-EU Cooperation in the Era of International Order Transformation: In Search of a Stable World System

28 Nov 2017 09:00
28 Nov 2017 12:15

The 20th Annual Japan EU Conference, Brussels

Venue: Fondation Universitaire, rue d’Egmont 11, 1000 BXL

Co-organizers: Institute for European Studies- Vrije Universiteit Brussel and International Christian University, Japan.



















The 20th Annual Japan EU Conference was held on November 27 and 28 in 2017 in the Fondation Universitaire in Brussels, just before the finalization of the negotiations of the Japan EU Economic Partnership Agreement on December 8th. The negotiations of the Japan EU Strategic Patnership Agreement were finalized on February 16 in 2018. This dialogue offered a precious opportunity to exchange views on Japan EU cooperation among officials, diplomats, researchers, students, journalists as well as participants from the business circle. 

Opening Session

The key note speeches as well as the sessions on the current status of the EPA(Economic Partnership Agreement) and SPA(Strategic Partnership Agreement) provided the audience with valuable input on the EU-Japan relations and their future development. The learning experiences were mutual, because the state of the affairs was elaborated from both the European and Japanese sides on crucial aspects such as services, procurement intellectual property, convergence towards international standards and geographical indications. The common challenges/opportunities of China and the U.S. Trump administration also were very usefully depicted. At the same time the way in which EU-Japan SPA and EPA can act as global benchmarks and trailblazers for multilateral trade deals, working against a raising tide of protectionism, was also a useful common message for the audience.

Circular Economy

The session on the Circular Economy added value by being able to bring together substantive experts in two policy fields that are of crucial importance to both the European and Japanese. Indeed, the session allowed a generalist audience to acquaint itself with a more specific topic that is central to both societies and their economic development, as laid out in the SPA and the EPA. The examples from the field of electrical and electronic equipment  allowed audience from both sides to associate themselves with the topic. The session gave at the same time the more general key note and trade talk presentations of the first session a more concrete content. From a European perspective the presentation of Prof. Suzuki on the Japanese 3Rs was very useful: although the Circular Economy Action Plan of the EU represents the state of the art in the field, its Japanese equivalent (including the Sound Materials Efficiency Plan) is also very highly developed, partly in other areas. These perspectives were usefully brought forth in the presentations.

Digital Economy

The session on the Digital Economy brought together academics and policymakers from both Japanese and European interests. The session first saw Dr Vesa Terava introduce the European Digital Single Market initiative. He showed the key policy topics involved in developing and strengthening the European approach to the digital economy. The same presentation was given to present the policies designed to strengthen Japanese digital economy by Professor Mayu Terada. After these basic and useful presentations, which allowed the audience to be aware of the topic at hand, Mr. Antoine Larpin from Panasonic, talked about several issues facing Japanese companies in the European digital single market. He focused his presentation on the free flow of data between Japan and the EU, and on the common acceptance of the way data protection is treated in both blocs.

After the presentations, several questions and discussion points emerged: notably the question posed by Professor Watanabe on how the future relations between the two economic blocs will be affected by broader geostrategic concerns that are currently emerging. It was concluded that these are challenging times for global (digital) economic relations, but that the potential deepening of the EU-Japan FTA may lead to strengthening the multilateral framework for global economic relations.

Ocean Governance

The keynote speaker, Mr.Machado, Director-General of DG MARE(Maritime Affairs and Fisheries) of the Commission, pointed out that the ocean offered great potential for the economy and food security. He expressed concern that the ocean “getting sick and insecure” because of environmental degradation, piracy and various organized crime. Coping with these challenges, EU is promoting maritime multilateralism.

Professor Kikuchi pointed out that “Asia is facing the challenge of whether it can sustain the rule-based regional order or not, especially in the maritime domain.” Japan is pursuing to further enhance its relations with the countries and institutions located along the “Indo-Pacific” maritime corridor, as well as enhancing the alliance relations with the United States. The Asian countries must free themselves of the old-fashioned mindset that they are sandwiched between the US and China. In his view, this is required for “the rest of Asia” to play a constructive role for the future of Asia.

Dr.Hellendorf  explained that “ EU has long sought to contribute adequately, and in line with its own principles and available means, to maritime security in East Asia, always through dialogue and concertation with its regional partners. … it is more useful and important as a platform for enhanced dialogue for interested parties from both Europe and Asia to cooperate and reinforce the ‘rules of the game’, globally.”

Mr. du Merle from the EEAS  briefed the CSDP counter-piracy operations. Professor Lewis explained migration and asylum including immigration policy in the EU. To Professor Lewis, Mr. Sato asked a rather simple and practical question of how the EU and Member States should address those difficulties. Professor Lewis attached importance to the solution at the European level.

In her comment, Professor Ikegami emphasized that “the Asia-Pacific region is at risk, as the hegemonic power balance between the United States and China is shifting and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is worsening in North Korea. Japan-EU collaboration is urgently needed to revitalize the rule of law and diplomacy for peace for conflict prevention and resolution in the Asia Pacific. “

On the Japan EU relations, according to the view of the keynote speaker, Mr.Machado, “the European Union is considering Japan not only as a partner but also as an ally and a friend.  In a connected and changing world where challenges and threats are global and multifaceted, our relationship matters as never before. Europe needs Japan as much as Japan needs Europe. This is all the more true when looking at the oceans.”


VUB EU Japan 20171127.pdf1.5 MB
FINAL Digital Economy, Telecommunication and AI Network Policy Mayu TERADA[1].pdf3.98 MB
Circular Economy_KM_Brussels_27.11.17[1].pdf13.39 MB
TSUTOMU KIKUCHI Japan EU conference Nov 28 2017.pdf128.22 KB
Presentation Masachika Suzuki Final for Public.pdf5.44 MB
Speech by Mr Aguiar Machado.pdf63.95 KB
VUB EU JPN 27 11 CE presentation.pdf3.71 MB
2017 Japan EU Conference PROGRAM FINAL VERSION REV[1].pdf201.49 KB