Christian Oliver

Why don’t they want Belgian chocolates? Or Italian spaghetti?

Europe’s frustration is mounting over its slow, difficult trade negotiations with Japan. The 15th round of talks is coming in February next year, and Europe is hungry for signs that it is worth carrying on.

In October, Japan joined the US and 10 other nations in sealing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which covers 40 per cent of the global economy. But there is little sign of that momentum carrying over into a quick deal with Europe.

Mauro Petriccione, Brussels’ chief negotiator with Japan, warned on Thursday that enthusiasm for an accord with the world’s third biggest economy could wane if the deal is not finalised next year.

“If we don’t make it in 2016, we’ll have to explain why, and we cannot exclude a resurgence of the scepticism towards the possibility of a new Japan-EU [free trade agreement] that we had before we started,” he told reporters. “It took us a long time to persuade sceptics that it was worth trying this. If they see that we don’t succeed in 2016, they will start asking themselves questions again.” Read more

Is it possible that people are overreacting to the crisis at Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear facility? Read more

Peter Spiegel

As we’ve been reporting for the last couple of days, many of the fiscal measures that we once thought had been agreed for the two-day summit are unravelling, thanks in part to Finland’s objections to finalising an increase in the eurozone’s €440bn bail-out fund and Germany’s sudden objection to the structure of the €500bn fund that will replace it in 2013. Read more

The European commission has asked member states to begin testing imported Japanese food for increased radiation levels, although officials believe that health risks for consumers are low.

That assessment is based on the fact that Japanese agricultural exports to the European Union are limited to begin with – particularly from the affected regions. Moreover, the disruption and devastation from the earthquake and tsunami are likely to reduce those exports even further. Read more

Beleaguered Japanese officials are already grappling with a humanitarian crisis wrought by a biblical earthquake and tsunami, and the prospect of apocalyptic meltdowns at a pair of stricken nuclear reactors. Add to their list of woes one European commissioner.

That would be Gunther Oettinger, the energy commissioner, whose ill-judged remarks about the crisis on Wednesday have helped to make a bad situation worse. Read more