President Trump called the European Union a trading "foe" last week, and on Tuesday European leaders replied by signing an economic partnership with Japan that will eliminate nearly all tariffs on bilateral goods.
Abe, during talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk, described the deal as momentous, while trumpeting the virtues of free trade versus protectionism, Xinhua news agency reported.
The EPA "shows the unwavering political resolve of Japan and the European Union to lead the world as a flag bearer of free trade amid growing protectionism", Abe said at a joint press conference Tuesday evening with Tusk and Juncker.
President of the European Council Donald Tusk said: "Politically, it's a light in the increasing darkness of global politics".
The EU officials and Japan will also look to present a united front against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium, which Japan has called "deplorable".
Brussels trade teams have been scrambling to conclude a number of deals to liberalise trade around the world amid efforts by Mr Trump to impose a number of tariffs across the globe.
The EU and Japan want to "demonstrate their leadership, in shaping global standards based on a high level of protection of personal data", they said in a joint statement. Last July, they reached an agreement in principle on the contours of the trade agreement.
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The European Union and Japan are celebrating a "historic moment" with the signing of two landmark agreements: the Strategic Partnership Agreement and the Economic Partnership Agreement. It will form a single trading bloc of some 600 million people, one that comprises almost 30 percent of the world's economy.
Japan is the EU's seventh biggest trade partner - the European Union exports more than US$100 billion worth of goods to Japan a year - and this deal could help protect both sides from the ongoing tariff war.
Japanese auto makers will see an immediate elimination of the up to 4% tariffs now in place for 90% of Japanese vehicle parts - and all tariffs on cars will be eliminated within the next seven years.
ZARROLI: In the past, the United States has used multilateral trade agreements as a chance to write global rules on issues it cared about, such as intellectual property theft and rules for resolving disputes.
The agreement was largely reached late previous year. Pedro Silva Pereira MEP, S&D Group rapporteur for the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement said: "Today's signature is an important step forward".
JEFFREY SCHOTT: Opens up new opportunities for the Japanese to sell cars in Europe and for the Europeans to sell cars and cheese and wine and lots of other products in Japan.
The United States this month imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods in response to China's persistent trade violations that include hundreds of billions of dollars per year of intellectual property theft from U.S. companies.