The economies of the European Union and Japan combined make up for an enormous 28 percent of global output, creating one of the largest trade pacts ever proposed.
"The conclusion of the EU-Japan free-trade agreement is a good sign for Europe, for Japan and for the global trade, especially since the Trans-Pacific Partnership has failed to be implemented for the time being", Alexander Anton, the association's secretary general, said. Key aspects of the agreement will provide greater market access to each party's auto and machinery sectors, remove structural barriers to trade, create new rules for investment disputes, and reaffirm the parties' commitment to the Paris climate accord (from which the United States has announced it will withdraw).
Abe noted the economic significance of the EU-Japan partnership during the press conference: "The EU and Japan account for 30 percent of the GDP, 10 percent of the population and 40 percent of trade of the world, so this is the birth of the world's largest free advanced industrialized economic zone".
The development came after EU agriculture chief Phil Hogan and trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström were dispatched to Tokyo at the last minute to try to settle differences over Japanese duties on EU cheese and European tariffs on vehicle imports from Japan.
European farmers will now get greater access to Japan's highly protected dairy market, which will help them deal with a deep crisis, caused by super-low demand and excessive supply.
Days later European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also met with the Japanese PM with Mrs Merkel, the leader of the EU's economy powerhouse, ordering him to deliver the deal as soon as possible.
Megmilk Snow Brand, which now shares market dominance with only two other manufacturers in Japan, said it was preparing for a large impact on the domestic dairy industry. "Despite protectionist movements, we can send a powerful, positive message to the world through this initial agreement", said Kishida after meeting with his European Union counterpart.
Anti-free trade activists meanwhile furiously criticised the mooted deal, calling it a unsafe sop to multinationals.
"There is no protection from protectionism", he said.
A landmark trade deal with Canada almost came unstuck a year ago when Wallonia, a region of Belgium, withheld its approval until its concerns were dealt with by the country's political leaders.
This, too, will now be open to negotiations, along with other controversial areas, such as investment courts and tribunals to rule on global disputes. Ahead of a regular summit meeting between Japan and the European Union on Thursday, both sides presented their concession plans to the other, which could lead the negotiations to a conclusion.