Europe

EU and Japan say they're getting closer to a free trade deal

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on arrival at the Europa building in Brussels on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Abe is on a one day visit to meet with EU officials. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on arrival at the Europa building in Brussels on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Abe is on a one day visit to meet with EU officials. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)  (The Associated Press)

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on arrival at the Europa building in Brussels on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Abe is on a one day visit to meet with EU officials. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on arrival at the Europa building in Brussels on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Abe is on a one day visit to meet with EU officials. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)  (The Associated Press)

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, European Council President Donald Tusk, center, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, leave after a media conference at the Europa building in Brussels on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Abe is on a one day visit to meet with EU officials. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, European Council President Donald Tusk, center, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, leave after a media conference at the Europa building in Brussels on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Abe is on a one day visit to meet with EU officials. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)  (The Associated Press)

The European Union and Japan have pledged to get to a free trade at the earliest possible opportunity, with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker saying it should be used as a beacon against isolationism.

As they met for bilateral talks, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was targeting a deal "at the earliest possible date," while Juncker suggested it should be clinched within the next nine months. He said "it promises to be a historic year between Japan and the EU."

Juncker said the deal was necessary to "continue to look out toward the world rather than return to isolationism."

The deal has been five years in the making and would intensify trade between partners who together account for over a third of the world's economic output.