TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday he will embark on a tour of Europe and the Middle East from July 11, during which a signing ceremony for a free trade pact between Japan and the European Union will be held.
"Amid a global trend of spreading protectionism, we would like to push forward the free trade system," Abe said in a gathering involving senior ruling camp and government officials, referencing the envisioned trade area that will cover around 30 percent of the world's gross domestic product.
After finalizing negotiations in December last year, Japan and the 28-member bloc aim to put the agreement into effect by late March next year. The signing will take place in Brussels.
Abe said his eight-day trip will also take him to France for the opening ceremony of "Japonismes 2018," an event to introduce Japanese culture, and the Bastille Day military parade.
In the Middle East, he will travel to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, accompanied by Japanese business executives, in the hope of boosting ties.