Japan and the European Union on Monday launched negotiations for a free trade agreement which would cover markets accounting for 30 per cent of the global economy.
"We know it's going to be difficult, but I think we're both well prepared. We understand each other and I am very confident," said Mauro Petriccione of the European Commission, who will be leading the negotiations for the EU side.
It is expected there will be five rounds of talks a year to hash out the deal.
"We are looking forward to engaging with you in order to produce a meaningful bilateral deal," Japan's representative, Ambassador Yun Yokota, added. "The general idea of having five sessions within one year is, I think, shared ... So we proceed on that basis."
According to dpa, the second negotiating round is expected to take place in June in Tokyo, while the third should follow in the autumn, Petriccione said.