The end of March has been marked, among others, by the first reunion of the Industrial Dialogue on Railways between the European Union and Japan (EU-Japan Industrial Dialogue on Railways). During this first reunion organized by the European Commission and the Japanese Government, the parties broadly discussed topics of interest for the railway sector closely related to the continuous negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement between UE and Japan. Negotiations are getting close to the fifth round which actually marks the end of the first year of talks between Europe and Japan. Next month, the Commission will draft a balance of the implementation of Japan’s commitments to eliminate non-tariff barriers and then decide whether negotiations could continue or not.
Back to the topic we are interested in, the parties present during the first Industrial Dialogue on Railways debated on the technical regulations, safety standards, railway markets, as well as the problems related to market access for both European and Asian parties.
The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) and the Association of European Railway Industry (UNIFE) have participated in the discussions and have expressed their support for industrial dialogue as an additional discussion tool between the private and public sectors for providing efficient and equal conditions for railway market access between the EU and Japan.
Moreover, both CER and UNIFE support the implication of DG MOVE and of the European Railway Agency (ERA) in future debates.
Although the first reunion of the Industrial Dialogue approached up-to-date topics for railway markets, a series of other topics remained open to debates, such as the Japanese regulation and public procurement systems. During the workshop on market access, UNIFE asked the Japanese Government to stick to its commitment of ensuring a transparent, predictable and non-discriminating application of the Operational Safety Clause. UNIFE has also made concrete recommendations for improving public procurement; for instance, providing information on future tenders and contract assigned published on the web sites of Japanese operators.
In turn, CER underlined the fact that European railway operators and infrastructure managers are receptive about an EU-Japan free trade agreement on condition it would generate opportunities for market players for both Europe and Japan. CER believes that it is necessary to boost the mutual acknowledgment level between EU and Japan in order to help access a market with setting in that specific market.
“The Industrial Dialogue should give impetus to the ongoing negotiations in the rail sector as it provides a platform to monitor commitments. In this respect, UNIFE has high expectations for the fifth round of negotiations set to take place next week, and expects a comprehensive set of measures to be agreed upon to achieve a level playing field between the European and Japanese rail markets”, pointed out UNIFE Director General Philippe Citroën.
“European railway companies are open to a discussion with Japanese enterprises. CER members provide a lot of services of interest to Japanese operators, such as feasibility studies and staff training. I am therefore convinced that the FTA will bring business opportunities for our sector. European railway undertakings are definitively in a position to make use of them”, said CER Executive Director Libor Lochman.