The European Commission and the Government of Japan launched negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement (EU terminology) or Economic Partnership Agreement (Japanese terminology) on 25 March 2013. As of November 2016, 17 rounds of "FTA / EPA" negotiations have taken place.
On the fringes of the 2016 G7 Summit in Ise-Shima (Japan), the Leaders of Japan, the European Council, the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy and the UK issued a statement in both English and Japanese, reaffirming their "strong commitment to reach agreement in principle as early as possible in 2016". The official G7 Ise-Shima Leaders' Declaration also referred to the FTA/EPA negotiation, "We welcome the strong commitment of Japan and the EU to reach agreement in principle on a comprehensive, high-level and balanced Japan-EU EPA as early as possible in 2016". The goal of reaching a preliminary agreement before the end of 2016 was restated on subsequent occasions, but was not met. As a result, both Authorities are now aiming to conclude an agreement in principle in 2017.
The BRT has advocated an FTA / EPA for almost 10 years. In 2007 - six years before the negotiations formally began - it called for them to begin, and "committed [itself] to creating the necessary conditions to deepen the full potential of EU-Japan economic relations, which are far from being fully exploited" and proposed the creation of a taskforce to assess the feasibility of an agreement.
Since then it has followed the process and negotiations with considerable interest and has encouraged both Authorities to bring them to a "swift, comprehensive, ambitious and mutually-beneficial conclusion":
In 2015 and 2016, the BRT stated its belief that, "an aim of a speedy conclusion must come together with a high level of ambition. Should a sufficiently high level of ambition seem difficult to achieve on the basis of the technical negotiations, the BRT urges, for the sake of our economies, political leaders at the highest level to intervene to resolve the deadlocks and bring the negotiations to a timely and ambitious conclusion".
On 17 December 2016, the EU's Chief Negotiator for the FTA / EPA was quoted in various media outlets, including the Japan Times and Nikkei, as indicating that it would not be possible to reach a preliminary agreement in 2016 and that instead, "We will need to continue working in the next few weeks in order to bridge the remaining distance and reach an agreement in principle, with the right balance, as early as possible at the beginning of next year". A Euractiv report of 5 January 2017 referred to "Tokyo's plans to complete the deal as quickly as possible, before the end of 2017".
On 16 November 2016, the Government of Japan decided to create a Taskforce involving the key Ministries to facilitate close coordination among the relevant ministries and bring about an agreement in principle in 2016. The first meeting of the taskforce took place the following day. The MOFA website has basic information in English. More detailed information and a report on the discussions is available in Japanese on the websites of MOFA and of the Cabinet Secretariat.
The 17th Round of Negotiations took place in Brussels between 26 and 30 September 2016.
A summary of the discussions is available on the website of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Trade. The website of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has brief information about the round.
The 18th Round of Negotiations took place in Tokyo between 3 and 5 April 2017 and followed an EU-Japan Leaders Meeting in Brussels on 21 March 2017. DG TRADE has not yet published its official summary of the discussions, but both the DG TRADE website and that of MOFA have brief information about the round. Commissioner Malmström has also published a blog entry entitled, Strengthening ties to Japan in uncertain times. Video recordings of parts of the Leaders Meeting and transcripts of the remarks by Presidents Juncker and Tusk are available on EU websites. The Kantei website also mentions the Leaders Meeting.