EU and Japan formally sign economic partnership agreement

On 17 July 2018, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) was formally signed during the EU-Japan summit in Tokyo.  The EPA – the largest free trade agreement ever negotiated by the EU – has been years in the making and took significant time and effort to get to this stage. You can read more about the steps to date in our earlier post here.

The EPA aims to remove trade barriers between the EU and Japan, making it easier for firms to sell goods and services between the two economies. It will create the world’s largest open trade zone, covering nearly a third of global GDP, almost 40 percent of world trade and more than 600 million people.

The partnership also goes beyond trade, with wider social and political implications.  Given its scope of coverage, the EPA may encourage the development of global trade rules consistent with EU and Japanese standards.  The EPA also sends a powerful signal that two of the world’s largest economies explicitly reject trade protectionism. Continue reading

Belgium asks for the CJEU’s opinion on the compatibility of the Investment Court System with European Law

On 6 September 2017 the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders submitted a request from Belgium to the Court of Justice of the European Union for an opinion on the compatibility of the Investment Court System (ICS) with the European Treaties.  The Belgian government has made the request in recognition of the concerns raised by the regional assembly of Wallonia about the ICS when it was considering whether or not to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada.

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The European Court of Justice renders its opinion on the EU-Singapore free trade agreement: investment chapter is not within EU’s exclusive competence

On 16 May, 2017 the European Court of Justice (the Court) rendered its Opinion on the competence of the European Union to conclude the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Singapore. The Opinion recognises exclusive EU competence over most of the agreement and largely settles a long-standing dispute between the Commission and the Member States on the division of competences under the Lisbon Treaty.

Importantly, in the context of investor-state dispute resolution, the Court's Opinion is likely to render any agreement including protection for non-direct foreign investments or investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions a so-called "mixed agreement" which requires each of the Member States as well as the EU itself to become party, unless certain aspects commonly found in such agreements are removed or the Member States otherwise agree (discussed further below).  

The Opinion will have a major impact on the negotiation of future EU trade agreements, whether pending or anticipated (including the potential FTA between the UK and the EU following Brexit).

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Advocate General issues opinion that the EU does not have exclusive competence to conclude the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement

In an opinion issued on 21 December 2016, EU Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston QC has concluded that the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) will need to be finalised by the European Union and the Member States acting jointly, i.e. entered into by the EU and all of its Member States (as a so-called "mixed agreement"), not just by the EU alone. Although the opinion does not bind the CJEU, the court tends to follow the approach adopted by the Advocate General. The CJEU is expected to issue its own judgment in 2017.

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