BRUSSELS – The European Union will decide on Thursday whether to go ahead with free-trade talks with Japan to deepen Europe's ties with the world's third-largest economy.
The European Union already has trade agreements with more than 60 countries ranging from Egypt and Mexico to Switzerland but now aims to sign accords with the world's biggest economies.
Following are some of the EU's trade talks around the world.
The EU had hoped to finalize a free-trade accord with Canada by the end of this year after opening talks in 2009, but issues such as investment protection and public procurement remain on the table.
An agreement would mark the EU's first fully fledged trade pact with a major developed country outside Europe and goes well beyond a reduction in trade tariffs to include broad access to service sectors for both sides.
A free-trade deal between Brussels and Beijing is not likely any time soon. Despite often tense trade ties, both sides are trying to move towards starting talks on an investment pact that could unleash billions of euros of fresh investment flows.
A pact would lay down rules for companies expanding in both regions and end onerous Chinese requirements for European companies that want to invest in China, which include mandatory joint ventures and bans on foreign ownership in some sectors.
The EU started talks with India in 2007. India's trade minister says the two sides have agreed to finalize a free-trade agreement by the end of this year, but EU officials say that the agreement is at a stalemate over Indian duties on European car imports and access for Indian software companies to the EU.
A free-trade agreement would help India's growing companies expand into the EU, the country's biggest trading partner and buyer of more than 40 billion euros ($53 billion) of Indian goods and services in 2010. Europe wants access to a vast, young market of 1.3 billion potential customers.
Following the EU's trade agreement with South Korea last year, Brussels wants to start talks with Japan to agree a similar deal with Tokyo.
A deal between Europe and Japan would bring together two trading partners responsible for a third of global economic output, but France and Italy are worried about strengthened Japanese competition for their weak car industries.
MERCOSUR (ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, OTHERS)
Talks to create a massive free trade zone between Europe and South America have stalled, officials say.
Negotiators from the European Union and the four-nation trade bloc Mercosur, led by Brazil, have been trying for years to draw up a free-trade deal that would encompass 750 million people and trade worth 100 billion euros ($130 billion) a year.
The EU and the United States could start negotiations on a long-desired free-trade deal early in 2013. The two sides already have the biggest trade relationship in the world, with more than 1.8 billion euros ($2 billion) in trade every day across the Atlantic.
An EU-U.S. working group is expected in December to recommend going ahead with negotiations for a free trade deal that would eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade in goods, services and investment. It would also enhance the compatibility of regulations and standards.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Hugh Lawson)