EU-Japan relations are anchored in two documents: the 1991 Joint Declaration and the 2001 Action Plan for EU-Japan Cooperation. There is also a series of forums between the two, including an annual summit of heads of state and government and an inter-parliamentary body.  The two sides have now agreed to work towards a comprehensive free trade agreement, which was discussed at the 42nd G7 Summit on 27 May 2016. Four agreements have been signed to date by both parties;  Mr Altmaier: The FREE trade agreement BETWEEN the EU and Japan is a clear signal against protectionism Although cultural and non-economic relations with Western Europe developed considerably in the 1980s, the economic link remained by far the most important element of relations between Japan and the West throughout the decade. Events in Western European relations, as well as political, economic or even military affairs, have been important to most Japanese commentators because of the direct impact on Japan. The main questions focused on the impact of the impending economic unification of Western Europe on trade, investment and other opportunities in Western Europe. Some Western European heads of state and government have tried to restrict Japan`s access to the newly integrated European Union (until November 1993, the European community), but others seemed open to Japanese trade and investment. In partial response to the strengthening of economic relations between Western European nations and the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Canada-Mexico, Japan and other countries along the Asia-Pacific region began moving toward stronger economic cooperation in the late 1980s. In 1987, the Japanese government (METI) and the European Commission (General Directorate of Business and Industry) established the Eu-Japan Industrial Cooperation Centre, a non-profit organisation aimed at improving all forms of industrial, trade and investment cooperation between Japan and the EU. On 18 July 1991, Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, after months of difficult negotiations, signed a joint declaration with Dutch Prime Minister and Head of the European Council, Ruud Lubbers, and European Commission President Jacques Delors, in which he called for closer consultations between Japan and the European Community on external relations , scientific and technological cooperation, aid to developing countries and efforts to reduce trade conflicts. Representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs hoped that the agreement would help to broaden political relations between the European Community and elevate them beyond the narrow limits of trade disputes.
The evolution of goods trade since 2000 has been characterized by a marked reduction in the EU-27 trade deficit with Japan, with Japan`s share of total EU imports increasing from 9.3% in 2000 to 3.6% in 2012. For more details, see table: Between 2009 and 2011, trade in commercial services increased between the two partners, with the EU maintaining a stable surplus and Japan`s share of total EU imports remained stable at just over 3%.  The agreement removes a large portion of tariffs and a number of long-standing regulatory barriers.