Japan’s Abe and Germany’s Merkel talk up free trade, urge ‘sluggish’ EU to sign key deal

BYArjun Kharpal
Sunday, 19 Mar 2017 | 5:20 PM ET
Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday urged the European Union (EU) to finally sign a free trade deal with Japan following nearly four years of negotiations.

Both leaders touted the benefits of free trade in an increasingly digital age.

Negotiations between the EU and Japan for a free trade agreement began on March 25, 2013, but has faced roadblocks because of disagreements over issues from auto industry regulations to limits on Europe's food goods.

Abe called on negotiators to close the deal soon.

"Japan and Europe, those who value freedom and human rights and respect democratic rules must act in cooperation," Abe told an audience at the CeBIT technology trade fair in Hannover, Germany. "That's why we must conclude an economic partnership agreement between the Japan and EU in order to express this commitment."