BRUSSELS, Belgium - With the United States looking inward and the United Kingdom grappling with the many possibilities of post-Brexit trade ties - the European Union and Japan have now signed one of the world’s biggest free trade deals.
EU’s biggest free trade deal with Japan covers nearly a third of the world's GDP and 600 million people.
Announcing the deal, EU Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said the deal underlined the "win-win" solutions offered by free trade.
While one of the biggest EU exports to Japan is dairy goods, one of Japan's biggest exports is cars.
Revealing details of the agreement, Juncker said on Tuesday, "[The] impact of today's agreement goes far beyond our shores. Together we are a making, by signing this agreement, a statement about the future of free and fair trade. We are showing that we are stronger and better off when we work together. And we are leading by example, showing that trade is about more than tariffs and barriers. It is about values, principles and finding win-win solutions for all those concerned."
Meanwhile, Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan's Minister for Economic Revitalisation, said, "At a time when protectionist measures are gaining steam globally, the signing of the Japan-EU deal today will show the world once again our unwavering political will to promote free trade."
The move comes at a time when the U.S. Trump administration has introduced steep import tariffs - a move that has hurt American allies vastly, including the European Union.
Further, the move also comes months after the U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the Trans-Pacific trade agreement.
Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in one of his first moves after becoming President, and despite initiating talks about a wide-ranging free-trade agreement with Japan and other Asian countries.
Over the 18 months, Trump has pursued his "America First" policy that has seen tariffs introduced on a range of items, including steel - which is exported to the U.S. by both, Japan and the EU.
Currently, firms in the world's biggest free-trade zone - the EU, export over $100 billion in goods and services to the world’s third-biggest economy - Japan every year.