EU and Japan strike agreement in principle on a free trade deal.

Japan and the European Union leaders have reached a political agreement which will pave the way to the long awaited Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (FESI), and the European ski boots and sports footwear companies welcome this announcement with enthusiasm.

Today, on the occasion of the 24th EU-Japan summit, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, met in Brussels reiterating their commitments to finalising the FTA as soon as possible.

We tasked our respective negotiating teams with a rapid finalisation of the agreement that would allow for the internal procedures to start soon, both in the EU and in Japan,” the leaders confirmed today in their joint statement.

Ever since the first round of negotiation in April 2013 and before that, since 1998, FESI has actively supported the European Union and Japan to establish an ambitious and comprehensive FTA, which would foster sustainable economic growth, boost global trade and generate jobs both in the EU and Japan. This agreement is a beacon of light in foggy times in which many countries and regions are tempted by tackling economic difficulties through protectionist measures. Once in place, the FTA will bring substantial benefits for both trading partners and ensure lower costs for imported as well as exported goods for producers and consumers, increasing consumers’ purchasing power.

Currently, the ski boots industry faces a 27% import duty in Japan and 17% in Europe. A substantial amount of high skilled jobs in the ski boots production sector are located in Europe which is one of the largest exporters of this type of footwear. Moreover, design, distribution and marketing are also located in the EU making it a connected example of European industry composed by small and medium sized companies. As an example, the ski boots cluster in the Montebelluna area in Italy produces 60% of the world’s Ski Boots.

Thus, securing an open, predictable and transparent trading environment in Japan will enable companies to invest, maintain and even expand these jobs in the EU but also in Japan where a certain number of subsidiaries have been established.

Rene Harrer from the company HEAD and FESI’s ski committee chairman says “European Ski Boots Companies altogether are paying almost 20 million euros in import duty every year. In times when the sector is struggling with many problems such as lack of snow, decreased winter sport participation rates, decreasing demand and shrinking public investment in ski school holidays, this FTA is a breath of fresh air”.

FESI hopes that the final text will include ambitious duty reductions for ski boots and the elimination of tariff quotas for footwear– we look forward to see the final text.

We know that the winter sports market  in Japan is declining for many years. However, the participation rate seems to stabilise around 12 million national skiers now. Looking at the creative and dynamic people involved in making ski resorts ever more attractive over there, I am confident that Japan will attract an increasing number of recreational winter sports people in that region. Overall, the FTA can have a non-negligible effect on the sector and hopefully draw new investments in winter sports,” reiterates Jerome Pero FESI’s Public Policy Director.