Tusk, Abe and Juncker

The EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) – Responding to the Crisis of the Liberal World Order

The EU and Japan are about to adopt two (potentially) ground-breaking agreements: an EU-Japan free trade agreement and the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA). The SPA, policymakers in both Brussels and Tokyo cheer, will be the ‘big bang’ of bilateral relations upgrading political and security ties from too passive to very active.

The EU and Japan – whom Brussels refers to as “natural allies” – plan to upgrade cooperation in the fields of politics and non-military security. The instrument through which such increased and institutionalized cooperation is envisioned is the so-called EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), which has been agreed “in principle” and which both sides hope to finalize by the end of the year.

In the current issue of the Asia Policy Brief, Axel Berkofsky, Professor at the University of Pavia, Italy, and Senior Associate Research Fellow at the Milan-based Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI), analyses the importance and potential outcomes of the SPA. He argues that the adoption of the agreement would send a strong message that Europe and Japan are willing to uphold the universally established norms and values that are increasingly being challenged around the globe. “Against the background of the crisis of global liberalism, the adoption of the SPA in 2017 would indeed be very welcome as it would signal that Brussels and Tokyo are joining forces to uphold and strengthen established standards of international politics and security”, Berkofsky points out.

Unfortunately, the EU, like Japan, has not made any details of the SPA available, beyond generally outlining the areas it will cover. The decision not to render information public somehow gives the impression that EU policymakers think they are operating in an area where transparency and accountability are optional as opposed to compulsory. This attitude deserves criticism, because the agreement definitely deserves public attention and discussion. The new Asia Policy Brief seeks to contribute to such a debate.

In the Asia Policy Briefs experts discuss important developments in Asia and their consequences for Germany and Europe. The current issue of the Asia Policy Brief can be downloaded here:


In the Asia Policy Briefs renowned experts and authors from the Bertelsmann Stiftung analyze important developments in Asia and their consequences for Germany and Europe. The short briefing papers focus on current events as well as underlying trends in important Asian countries.

Please find the new Asia Policy Brief on the right side. All Asia Policy Brief editions can be downloaded here.