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Japan, Australia Add Fresh Impetus To FTA Talks

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

24 November 2010

During talks in Canberra, Japan’s Foreign Minister, Seiji Maehara, and Australia’s Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, agreed to make a fresh start towards finalizing a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

Emerson said that Australia and Japan had agreed to re-energize the free trade negotiations begun in April 2007, and that "in a 12th round of negotiations, which we have agreed will take place early next year, we will build on the progress made to date and make a fresh start on those issues that have impeded the successful conclusion of the agreement."

It is hoped that an FTA between Australia and Japan should boost trade for both countries. Japan is Australia’s second-largest trading partner and export market, with merchandise trade in 2009-10 worth nearly AUD55bn (USD54bn). Australia was Japan’s third-largest source of imports in 2009.

Mr Maehara's visit to Australia was his first bilateral overseas trip since becoming Foreign Minister and since the recent release of the Japanese government’s new Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships.

While it was reported that Japan’s government has indicated it will now try to “realize the full potential of Japan’s agriculture by increasing its competitiveness,” previous talks on the FTA halted following fears expressed by its highly-protected agricultural sector of any reduction to tariffs on sensitive products, such as beef, rice and wheat.

“Minister Maehara’s choice of Australia for his first bilateral visit sends a strong message about the importance Japan attaches to its economic and trading relationship with Australia," Emerson added. “The Basic Policy is a profoundly important change in Japanese thinking, heralding a new commitment to opening up Japan to more trade, more economic engagement in the region and associated domestic economic reform."

TAGS: tax | free trade agreement (FTA) | law | tariffs | Australia | agreements | import duty | trade | Japan

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