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Roundup: Scandal-hit Abe woos EU to strike strategic, free trade deals
BY 2017-03-22 09:24:42

BRUSSELS, March 21 (Xinhua) -- Japan's scandal-hit prime minister and European Union (EU) chiefs on Tuesday held out hope that the two sides will soon put a seal on a free trade deal and a strategic partnership agreement in the face of a protectionism-prone U.S. administration.

Speaking at a press conference along with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels before their meeting, Abe stressed that it's important for the two sides to "show to the world the flag of free-trade as a model".

However, Abe added that Japan, the EU and the United States "should hand in hand work to maintain and reinforce the free and open international order."

"In this regard, I wish to reconfirm with the EU today that we shall try to aim for agreement in principle for negotiations for the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement and the strategic partnership agreement at the earliest possible date," Abe said.

Echoing Abe, Tusk said that they will in their talks "review progress in our bilateral relations and provide a clear political direction to our negotiators on the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement and the Strategic Partnership Agreement."

Tusk reaffirmed that the EU is "fully committed to concluding the negotiations for both agreements very soon and together.

"I'm sure that we will achieve these two highly ambitious deals. They will strengthen our political and economic strategic partnership." Tusk said.

The negotiations of the two deals are in a "decisive and hopefully final stage," Juncker told reporters.

Despite that "the few remaining issues are the most difficult to solve", Juncker said he is confident to clinch the deals this year.

Brussels is the third stop of Abe's four-day visit to Europe.

The support rate for Abe's cabinet has tumbled recently over a school land deal scandal, according to various media surveys.

Yasunori Kagoike, the president of scandal-hit Moritomo Gakuen in Osaka Prefecture, said last week that he had received a donation from Abe for an elementary school to be built on a plot of land he bought from the government at a substantially reduced price.

Kagoike will be summoned to give sworn testimony in the upper and lower house budget committee sessions on Thursday.

Moritomo Gakuen intended to open a new elementary school next month on the plot of land, but has since withdrawn its application as the scandal has unfolded.

The school was to be named after the prime minister whose name was allegedly used to raise funds for the school, according to its operator.

Abe's wife, Akie, who has given several speeches at a controversy-hit kindergarten central to ongoing scandals involving hate speech and child abuse and also run by Moritomo Gakuen, has since stepped down as the would-be school's honorary principal.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said earlier Friday that Abe's office has checked its records to see if Akie or any third parties connected to the prime minister had made any donations in an individual capacity to the school or its operator.

(Editor:Li Zhaoqi) (From:xinhua)
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