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European Parliament approves EU-Japan trade deal

The European Parliament approved a new trade agreement between the EU and Japan, clearing the way for the deal to take effect Feb. 1, 2019.

With 474 votes for, 152 votes against and 40 abstentions, EU lawmakers endorsed the pact, which was signed in July, to open a trading zone covering more than 600 million people and about one-third of global GDP.

"Our economic partnership with Japan — the biggest trade zone ever negotiated — is now very close to becoming a reality. This will bring clear benefits to our companies, farmers, service providers and others," European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said.

Brussels said the trade deal will remove nearly €1 billion of duties paid annually by EU companies exporting to Japan, along with long-standing regulatory barriers including for car exports.

Under the pact, EU exports of wine, cheese, beef, pork, pasta, chocolate and biscuits will enter the Japanese market duty-free either immediately or after a transition period, according to the European Parliament. Tariffs on industrial products in sectors such as cosmetics, chemicals, textiles and clothing will also be removed.

The deal, which Japan has already ratified, also opens up the country's rail procurement market and public procurement in big cities to European competition. It also liberalizes the Japan's financial services, telecommunications, e-commerce, international maritime transport and postal services sectors.