BRUSSELS -- The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, submitted a report to EU members on Wednesday calling for continued negotiations with Japan on an economic partnership agreement, according to EU sources.
The European Commission is expected to make a final decision on the future of the trade talks after discussions among EU members.
The European Commission is in charge of trade negotiations, but it must listen to the opinions of EU countries. The EU and Japan launched negotiations for an EPA in April 2013. They have so far held five rounds of talks over the agreement.
The European Commission report comes at a crucial time for the trade negotiations.
The EU has said that it will assess progress made in the first year of talks and decide whether to continue pursuing the agreement. The assessment comes amid concerns among some member countries, such as France and Italy, about Japan's negotiating stance.
One of the biggest obstacles in the negotiations has been Japan's non-tariff barriers, especially in its railway sector.
The European Commission report recognizes progress made on the issue of non-tariff barriers and virtually calls for EU members to stay in the trade talks with Japan, the EU sources said.
European train makers are aiming to enter the Japanese market. It appears certain progress has been made in the trade talks to ensure transparency in procurement of train cars and rail equipment by Japanese railway operators.