The Yomiuri ShimbunPrime Minister Shinzo Abe embarked Sunday on a tour of four European countries, including Germany and France, where he plans to talk with leaders and confirm with the European Union the promotion of negotiations for an economic partnership agreement (EPA).
Amid growing concerns among European countries about U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign and trade policies, Abe intends to confirm the importance of cooperation between Group of Seven countries, which will have a summit meeting in Italy in May.
Abe’s first stop is Germany, where he and Chancellor Angela Merkel were set to visit one of the world’s largest exhibitions on information and communication devices, which was scheduled to open in Hannover on Sunday. The two leaders are to hold a meeting the following day to discuss strengthening cooperation in digital technology.
Both governments are planning to exchange views on the U.S. administration, which takes a different approach from Germany on refugees and other issues. Germany has played a major role in accepting refugees from Syria, while Trump supports restricting the entry of refugees and immigrants into the United States. The significant gap between Merkel and Trump on the issue was highlighted during their talks on Friday.
In France, Abe plans to have his final meeting with President Francois Hollande, who has announced that he will not run in the presidential election in April and May. Abe wants to confirm that the two nations will promote cooperation over nuclear energy and reinforce cooperation on security issues.
In Belgium, Abe will hold talks with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, during which he hopes to build consensus for accelerating negotiations for a broad agreement on an EPA between Japan and the EU at an early date. Abe intends to convey his support for the philosophy of European integration, as the EU has been shaken by the Brexit decision.