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Japan-EU Leaders’ meeting

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H.E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, H.E. Mr. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and H.E. Dr. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, held a Leaders Meeting via VTC on 26 May 2020.

The leaders expressed their deepest sympathy with the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. They recognised that global solidarity,cooperation and effective multilateralism are required more than ever to defeat the virus as well as to ensure economic recovery. They reaffirmed their strong commitment to continue tackling global challenges together in the international arena based upon the close and strong Japan-EU relations.

The leaders confirmed that both Japan and the EU are sparing no effort to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, protect lives, and mitigate the social and economic consequences, in keeping with their principles and values of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and non-discrimination. They are promoting global coordination in various international fora such as the G7, G20, and the United Nations system, and assisting vulnerable countries and communities in need.

In order to prevent future pandemics, the leaders emphasised the importance of strengthening our preparedness and response capacities, of sharing information in a free, transparent and prompt manner, and of improving international response including through relevant international organisations, such as the WHO, drawing on lessons learned from the current global responses. The leaders reaffirmed the role of the WHO in coordinating the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They welcomed the recently adopted resolution at the 73rd World Health Assembly which requests the Director General of the WHO to initiate, at the earliest appropriate moment, a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation to review experience gained and lessons learnt from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to global collaboration and sustained funding for developing and deploying effective antiviral medicines, diagnostics, treatments and vaccines in orderto make them available to all at an affordable price. They called for the future COVID-19 vaccine to become a global common good. In this context, they welcomed the successful pledging initiative of “the Global Coronavirus Response” that started on May 4, with the aim of raising at least €7.5 billion. Prime Minister Abe expressed his gratitude for the EU’s initiative, and the EU leaders expressed their appreciation for Japan’s contribution. The leaders confirmed their determination to continue efforts toward closing the financial gap, including the collaborative efforts for the success of the upcoming pledging conference of Gavi in June. The leaders announced that Japan and the EU will accelerate cooperation on research on health, welcoming in this regard the signature of the Letter of Intent on strengthening cooperation in science, technology and innovation, which includes collaboration between Japan’s Moonshot Research and Development Program and the EU’s Horizon Europe Programme. 

The leaders stressed their determination to ensure a robust economic recovery and rebuild more sustainable, inclusive and resilient economies, in keeping with the Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. Decarbonization / green transition, digital transformation, and the virtuous cycle of environment and growth, will be a part of the recovery strategy. The leaders welcomed the G20 Action Plan at the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting to support the global economy during and after the pandemic. They would continue to adjust their economic responses, using all relevant policy tools, including digital tools to prevent the spread of infections while ensuring privacy and security, and standing ready to provide further support in a coordinated way. They also underlined the importance of keeping the trading system open. Japan and the EU will cooperate to facilitate the flow of medical supplies, agricultural products, raw materials and other goods and services across borders, while ensuring that any necessary emergency measures designed to tackle COVID-19 are targeted, proportionate, transparent, temporary, and consistent with WTO rules so that they do not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains.They called for refraining from unnecessary travel and export restrictions. Looking forward, they stressed the need to make global supply chains more resilient, and will work together to reform and strengthen the WTO, through rule-making on e-commerce and fostering a level playing field, to promote international discussions under the Osaka Track, to further elaborate  “Data Free Flow with Trust” (DFFT) with a view to facilitating safe and secure cross-border data flows through enhancing data security and privacy, to harness the benefits of the digital economy further underscored by the current economic crisis. They confirmed that transport services should be progressively restored on the premise that public health safety is ensured as they are key enablers of the global economy.

With a view to assisting developing countries, including in Africa and other vulnerable regions, the leaders mutually welcomed the commitment made by the EU, including its Member States, securing over €20 billion in order to help partner countries face the COVID-19 impact and Japan’s commitment to step up its assistance to partner countries, not only by providing short-term assistances but also by supporting them over the mid-to-long term to strengthen their healthcare systems as well as by addressing the enormous economic impact of the current crisis. They also welcomed the financial assistance deployed by the IMF, World Bank and other international institutions, and the agreement reached by the G20 and the Paris Club on a coordinated approach to a time bound suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries, calling for full implementation of this initiative.

The leaders also discussed the geopolitical situation in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. They reiterated their commitment to upholding the rules-based international order and looked forward to strengthening practical cooperation in areas such as cybersecurity, countering hybrid threats and counter-terrorism. They confirmed that access to transparent, timely, reliable and fact-based information is crucial for an effective global response to the pandemic. It constitutes the foundation of good governance and reinforces the resilience of our societies and democracies. The leaders confirmed their resolve to counter disinformation, in accordance with shared principles such as freedom of expression and the rule of law. The leaders shared concern that the spread of the virus may escalate some regional conflicts and make it more difficult to protect civilian population. They supported the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic and insisted on respect for humanitarian principles.

They shared the view to intensify coordination to contribute to resolving regional issues based on international law, including eastern Ukraine, Afghanistan, North Korea, East and South China Seas, Libya, Syria and Sahel.

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Japan-EU strategic partnership. It will play an important role in recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and in tackling other common challenges that have not diminished. Encouraged by the initial positive results, the leaders expressed their determination to continue implementing the Japan-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement and Economic Partnership Agreement. They looked forward to holding a Summit Meeting in the near future when conditions allow in order to take cooperation between Japan and the EU further in the areas such as connectivity, global environmental issues and challenges, climate change, digital transformation, research and innovation, health, energy, free, fair and rules-based trade, and security and defence, transport and urban policy. The leaders confirmed that preparatory work in these fields should advance.

EU Politics

70% of the EU adult population fully vaccinated

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Today, the EU has reached a crucial milestone with 70% of the adult population now fully vaccinated. In total, over 256 million adults in the EU have now received a full vaccine course. Seven weeks ago already, the Commission’s delivery target was met, ahead of time: to provide Member States, by the end of July, with enough vaccine doses to fully vaccinate 70% of the adult EU population.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said:  “The full vaccination of 70% of adults in the EU already in August is a great achievement. The EU’s strategy of moving forward together is paying off and putting Europe at the vanguard of the global fight against COVID-19.  But the pandemic is not over. We need more. I call on everyone who can to get vaccinated. And we need to help the rest of the world vaccinate, too. Europe will continue to support its partners in this effort, in particular the low and middle income countries.”

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said:  “I am very pleased that as of today we have reached our goal to vaccinate 70% of EU adults before the end of the summer. This is a collective achievement of the EU and its Member States that shows what is possible when we work together with solidarity and in coordination. Our efforts to further increase vaccinations across the EU will continue unabated. We will continue to support in particular those Member States that are continuing to face challenges. We need to close the immunity gap and the door for new variants and to do so, vaccinations must win the race over variants.”

Global cooperation and solidarity

The rapid, full vaccination of all targeted populations – in Europe and globally – is key to controlling the impact of the pandemic. The EU has been leading the multilateral response. The EU has exported about half of the vaccines produced in Europe to other countries in the world, as much as it has delivered for its citizens.  Team Europe has contributed close to €3 billion for the COVAX Facility to help secure at least 1.8 billion doses for 92 low and lower middle-income countries. Currently, over 200 million doses have been delivered by COVAX to 138 countries.

In addition, Team Europe aims to share at least 200 million more doses of vaccines secured under the EU’s advance purchase agreements to low and middle-income countries until the end of 2021, in particular through COVAX, as part of the EU sharing efforts

Preparing for new variants

Given the threat of new variants, it is important to continue ensuring the availability of sufficient vaccines, including adapted vaccines, also in the coming years. That is why the Commission signed a new contract with BioNTech-Pfizer on 20 May, which foresees the delivery of 1.8 billion doses of vaccines between the end of the year and 2023. For the same purpose, the Commission has also exercised the option of 150 million doses of the second Moderna contract. Member States have the possibility to resell or donate doses to countries in need outside the EU or through the COVAX Facility, contributing to a global and fair access to vaccines across the world. Other contracts may follow. This is the EU’s common insurance policy against any future waves of COVID-19.

Background

A safe and effective vaccine is our best chance to beat coronavirus and return to our normal lives. The European Commission has been working tirelessly to secure doses of potential vaccines that can be shared with all.

The European Commission has secured up to 4.6 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far and negotiations are underway for additional doses. The Commission is also working with industry to step up vaccine manufacturing capacity.

At the same time, the Commission has started work to tackle new variants, aiming to rapidly develop and produce effective vaccines against these variants on a large scale. The HERA Incubator helps in responding to this threat.

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EU Politics

EU’s defence measures against unfair trade practices remained effective in 2020

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The system for protecting EU businesses from dumped and subsidised imports continued to function well in 2020 thanks to the EU’s robust and innovative ways of using trade defence instruments (TDI), despite the practical challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is part of the European Commission’s new trade strategy, whereby the EU takes a more assertive stance in defending its interests against unfair trade practices.

Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The EU needs effective tools to defend ourselves when we face unfair trade practices. This is a key pillar of our new strategy for an open, sustainable and assertive trade policy. We have continued to use our trade defence instruments effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic, improved their monitoring and enforcement, and tackled new ways of giving subsidies by third countries.  We will not tolerate the misuse of trade defence instruments by our trading partners and we will continue to support our exporters caught up in such cases. It is crucial that our companies and their workers can continue to rely on robust trade defence instruments that protect them against unfair trade practices.”

At the end of 2020, the EU had 150 trade defence measures in force, in line with previous years’ activity levels with an increase in the number of cases lodged towards the end of 2020. In addition, for the first time, the Commission addressed a new type of subsidy given by third countries in the form of cross-border financial support that was a serious challenge for EU companies.

The following are the main trade-defence highlights of 2020:

Continued high level of EU trade defence activity

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission had to swiftly introduce temporary changes to its work practices, especially concerning on-the-spot verification visits. This allowed the Commission to continue applying the instruments at the highest standards without a drop in the levels of activity. At the end of 2020, the 150 trade defence measures that the EU had in place – 10 more than at the end of 2019 – included 128 anti-dumping, 19 anti-subsidy and 3 safeguard measures.

In 2020, the Commission launched:

  • 15 investigations, compared to 16 in 2019, and imposed 17 provisional and definitive measures, compared to 15 in 2019;
  • 28 reviews, compared to 23 the previous year.

The highest number of EU trade defence measures concerns imports from:

  • China (99 measures);
  • Russia (9 measures);
  • India (7 measures);
  • The United States (6 measures).

Tackling new types of subsidies

In 2020, the Commission strengthened its action against subsidies granted by third countries. In particular, the Commission imposed countervailing duties on cross-border financial support given by China to Chinese-owned companies manufacturing glass fibre fabrics and continuous filament glass fibre products based in Egypt for export to the EU.

This means that, for the first time, the Commission addressed cross-border subsidies given by a country to enterprises located in another country for exports to the EU.

Support to, and defence of, EU exporters facing trade defence investigations in export markets

The importance of monitoring trade defence action taken by third countries was again evident in 2020. The number of trade defence measures in force by third countries affecting EU exporters reached its highest level since the Commission started this monitoring activity, with 178 measures in place. In addition, the number of cases initiated also increased in 2020, with 43 compared to 37 the previous year.

The report outlines the Commission’s activities to ensure that WTO rules are correctly applied and procedural errors and legal inconsistencies are addressed in order to avoid any misuse of trade defence instruments by third countries. The Commission’s interventions yielded success in some cases where measures were not ultimately imposed, affecting important EU export products such as ceramic tiles and fertilisers.  

Strong focus on monitoring and enforcement

There was a renewed focus on the monitoring of measures in place in 2020, including changes to surveillance practices to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the trade defence instruments. This also involved customs authorities, EU industry, and in certain instances, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). Continuing its efforts to address instances where exporters tried to avoid measures, the Commission initiated three anti-circumvention investigations in 2020 and completed five such investigations during the year, where measures were extended in four cases to also address imports from third countries where transhipment was found to have taken place.

The report also recalls the findings of the European Court of Auditors from July 2020, which confirmed the successful enforcement of the EU’s trade defence instruments by the Commission. The report made a number of recommendations to further strengthen the Commission’s response to the challenges posed by unfairly traded imports that the Commission has started to implement in 2020, such as improving monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of measures. 

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EU Politics

Fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2022: improving long-term sustainability of stocks

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The Commission today adopted its proposal for fishing opportunities for 2022 for the Baltic Sea. Based on this proposal, EU countries will determine how much fish can be caught in the sea basin, for what concerns the most important commercial species.

The Commission proposes to increase fishing opportunities for herring in the Gulf of Riga, whilst maintaining the current levels for sprat, plaice and by-catches of eastern cod. The Commission proposes to decrease fishing opportunities for the remaining stocks covered by the proposal, in order to improve the sustainability of those stocks and to help other stocks such as cod and herring recovering.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “The poor environmental status of the Baltic Sea is heavily affecting our local fishermen and women, who rely on healthy fish stocks for their livelihoods. This is why the Commission is doing its utmost to restore those stocks, and today’s proposal is a reflection of that ambition. However, the state of the Baltic Sea is not only related to fishing, so everyone must do their part to build the long-term sustainability of this precious sea basin.”

Over the past decade, EU’s fishermen and women, industry and public authorities have made major efforts to rebuild fish stocks in the Baltic Sea. Where complete scientific advice was available, fishing opportunities had already been set in line with the principle of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for seven out of eight stocks, covering 95% of fish landings in volume. However, in 2019 scientists discovered that the situation was worse than previously estimated. Decisive action is still necessary to restore all stocks and ensure that they grow to or remain at sustainable levels.

The proposed total allowable catches (TACs) are based on the best available peer-reviewed scientific advice from the International Council on the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) and follow the Baltic multiannual management plan adopted in 2016 by the European Parliament and the Council. As regards western Baltic cod, western Baltic herring and salmon, the Commission will update its proposal once the relevant scientific advice will be available (expected by mid-September).

Cod

For eastern Baltic cod, the Commission proposes to maintain the TAC level and all the accompanying measures from the 2021 fishing opportunities. Despite the measures taken since 2019, when scientists first alarmed about the very poor status of the stock, the situation has not yet improved.

For western Baltic cod the scientific advice from the International Council on the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) is postponed to mid-September, and the Commission will update its proposal accordingly. However, since it seems unlikely that the stock has developed favourably, the Commission proposes already now to maintain the spawning closure. It also proposes to maintain all accompanying measures in the eastern part of the catch area, given the predominance of eastern Baltic cod in that area.

Herring

The stock size of western Baltic herring remains below safe biological limits and scientists advise for the fourth year in a row to stop catching western herring. The Commission, therefore, proposes to close the directed fishery and set a TAC limited to unavoidable by-catches, whose level the Commission will propose at a later stage, as ICES is currently not in a position to provide sufficient scientific data.

For central Baltic herring, the Commission proposes a reduction of 54% in line with the ICES advice, because the stock size has dropped very close to the limit below which the stock is not sustainable. In line with the ICES advice, the Commission proposes to decrease the TAC level for herring in the Gulf of Bothnia by 5%, while the situation for Riga herring allows for an increase of the TAC by 21%.

Plaice

While the ICES advice would allow for an increase, the Commission remains cautious, mainly to protect cod – which is an unavoidable by-catch in plaice fisheries as currently conducted. It therefore proposes to maintain the TAC level unchanged.

Sprat

Similarly to plaice, the ICES advice for sprat would allow for an increase. The Commission however advises prudence and proposes to maintain the TAC level unchanged. This is because sprat and herring are caught in mixed fisheries and the TAC for central Baltic herring has to be reduced again significantly. Moreover, sprat is a prey species for cod, which is not in a good condition.

Salmon

ICES has postponed its scientific advice for salmon to mid-September. The Commission will update its proposal accordingly. A special advice from ICES of April 2020 already provides information about the issues affecting these stocks, pointing to the fact  that the MSY objective cannot be achieved for all salmon river stocks if the commercial and recreational mixed-stock sea fisheries are continued at current levels.

Next steps

The Council will examine the Commission’s proposal in view of adopting it during a Ministerial meeting on 11-12 October.

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