Japan PM to visit Brussels with EU hoping for trade deal

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at the Diet in Tokyo on February 24, 2017

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Brussels this month, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday, as the EU aims to close a free trade deal with Tokyo this year.

Abe will meet with Juncker and freshly re-elected EU President Donald Tusk on March 21 in the latest get-together between the leaders of the two big trading partners.

The European Union will "do all it can to be able to close" the trade deal, Juncker told reporters in Brussels.

The bloc hopes this year to crown years of talks with an agreement. But according to a source close to the negotiations, some potential delays still lie ahead.

The Japanese have submitted to their parliament a dairy sector reform that won't be adopted before summer. Thus they are reluctant to make concessions in that area, which is key for the EU to close the deal, the source added.

The timeline regarding the dairy legislation and uncertainties over Japan's relations with the United States under new President Donald Trump "interfere slightly with the negotiations", another source said.

Juncker, speaking to the French LE Figaro daily, stressed that "a return to isolationism and protectionism is not an option" for Europe.