BRUSSELS - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and top EU officials agreed on Thursday the broad outline of a landmark trade deal, presented as a direct challenge to protectionism championed by US President Donald Trump.
"Today we agreed in principle on an Economic Partnership Agreement (with Japan), the impact of which goes far beyond our shores," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker announced at a joint press conference with Abe and EU President Donald Tusk in Brussels.
The breakthrough capped four years of talks and came ahead of a G20 meeting in Germany at which Trump is expected to defend his protectionist stance on trade.
"This accord is not just about trade but above all the shared values of our societies: democracy, rule of law and human rights," said Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.
The EU and Japanese economies combined account for more than a quarter of global output making the deal one of the biggest trade pacts ever attempted.
The "political agreement" on the trade deal covers some of the accord's toughest aspects but leaves aside details that could still prove difficult.
At the heart of the deal is an agreement for the EU to open its market to the world-leading Japanese auto industry, with Tokyo in return scrapping barriers to EU farming products, especially dairy.
Activists Thursday objected to the mooted deal calling it a dangerous sop to multinationals.
Last year, the EU's giant CETA trade deal with Canada nearly sank on such concerns when the small Belgian region of Wallonia threatened to veto it, before eventually relenting.