As the sixth meeting of the EU-Japan Industrial Dialogue on Railways comes to an end, UNIFE calls for major and tangible outcomes that go far beyond the ‘one-year package’ on railways, which brought only limited improvements since its implementation in 2014. The European Rail Supply Industry Association also urges the Japanese government to ensure a transparent and open procurement system for rail entities, particularly given the major contracts Japanese suppliers have been awarded in the EU.
“The sixth meeting of the Industrial Dialogue enabled stakeholders to take stock of the progress made in the rail sector, but more importantly, to acknowledge what must be achieved by the FTA negotiations. UNIFE has high expectations with respect to market access coverage and the Operational Safety Clause, and calls for a comprehensive agreement on rail to achieve a true level playing field between the European and Japanese rail markets,” UNIFE Director General, Philippe Citroen said.
Under the patronage of the European Commission and the Japanese government, this Dialogue aims to facilitate exchanges on critical rail topics addressed in the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement (FTA), especially market access issues. After four years of negotiations with Japanese rail stakeholders, access to the country’s market remains a real challenge for European companies due to discriminatory and non-transparent procurement practices (including the ‘Operational Safety Clause’, a non-tariff barrier enshrined in the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement).
While supportive of the 17 February commitment by the EU and Japan to reach a Free Trade Agreement as soon as possible, UNIFE emphasises that the timing of the conclusion of negotiations should in no way prevail over its quality. The FTA negotiations represent a unique opportunity to solve the aforementioned issues, and the final agreement should effectively address them.
At the meeting, UNIFE also reaffirmed its support for the Industrial Dialogue on Railways as a tool to foster mutual understanding and ensure effective, comparable rail market access between the EU and Japan. The strong presence of European rail suppliers to meet and present technical solutions to a wide range of high-level Japanese rail and urban transport operators confirmed the strong interest of European companies in this key market.