July 17 (UPI) -- Japanese and European Union leaders signed a free trade deal Tuesday to boost their economic growth by eliminating tariffs on imports and exports.
The Economic Partnership Agreement aims to strengthen Japan and EU relationship as global partners that share fundamental values of democracy, rule of law, and basic human rights.
"It is expected that this agreement will promote the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment between Japan and the European Union and will further vitalize both economies by strengthening reciprocal economic ties," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan said in a statement said.
The trade deal signed by the EU eliminates some $1.17 billion in tariffs for European companies that export to Japan.
The EU is Japan's major trading and investment partner that contributes to 12 percent of Tokyo's total trade volumes. Japan is also especially interested in eliminating tariffs on industrial products and improvement of regulatory issues. For the EU, the deal improves market access on agricultural products and sustainable development.
The deal comes amid a trade disputes between the United States and China.
"We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism," European Council President Donald Tusk said.
The U.S. trade war with China heated up last week when President Donald Trump threatened Beijing with $200 billion in new 10 percent tariffs. The tariffs are intended to pressure China into abandoning what Trump considers unfair practices.