World leaders plant trees at shrine as trade deal between the EU and Japan gets the go ahead


The European Union and Japan have reached political agreement on the completion of long-running negotiations for a trade deal which Downing Street believes could be worth £5 billion a year to the UK economy.

world leaders walk together in japan (Jim Watson/AP)

In talks at the G7 summit in Japan, leaders including David Cameron, agreed to instruct negotiators to work to an accelerated timetable which could see the deal concluded as early as this autumn and come into effect next year.

The Prime Minister made it a key objective of the two-day gathering to secure progress in negotiations on the EU/Japan Economic Partnership Agreement/Free Trade Agreement - which began in 2013 and were initially intended to be completed last year.

world leaders sit at a round table (AP)

Downing Street said an agreement could be worth the equivalent of £200 a year to British households in increased exports of products such as cars, manufactured goods, chemicals, food and drinks, as well as services, to Japan.

But key elements of the deal - including tariffs on agricultural and automotive exports and government procurement - must be completed over the summer if it is to be signed by the end of the year. A successful deal would mean the elimination of the vast majority of trade tariffs and boost imports and exports in key areas such as agriculture, car manufacturing and clothing, said Downing Street.

David Cameron and his G7 colleagues also paid a visit to the holiest site of the Shinto religion. They are believed to be the first sitting heads of their countries to visit the Ise-Jingu Grand Shrine.

The PM entered the tranquil setting by crossing the wooden Uji Bridge over the 52 Bells River in the company of a priest, in what is regarded by followers of Shinto as a symbolic journey from the human to the spiritual world.

A holy site for more than 2,000 years, the shrine had Japan's emperor as its chief priest during the period when the country's ruler was regarded as a living god.

david cameron walks over the ujibashi bridge (Doug Mills/AP)

Cameron and the other leaders - US president Barack Obama, Germany's Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande of France, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Italy's Matteo Renzi - were granted access to the inner part of the shrine, which is normally out of bounds to everyone but the site's priests and distinguished visitors.

After a brief cleansing ceremony with holy water, Cameron planted a Japanese cedar tree with Hollande and Trudeau, using shovels handed to them by schoolchildren from the Mie Prefecture.

the world leaders plant trees (Ma Ping/AP)