Thursday, February 09, 2006
Japan hopes for free trade talks with India by summer
TOKYO: Japan hopes to open talks with India by this summer on a free-trade agreement, which would open the way for Asia’s largest economy to invest more in the emerging giant, an official said Wednesday.
Japan and India started a joint study group last May on the possibility of starting talks on a trade deal. It is due to submit a report in June, said Naoyasu Yoshimura, a trade ministry official at the division of trade policy toward India.
“It is expected that the negotiations would start after the submission of the report,” he said.
Japan’s foreign minister Taro Aso on a visit to India in January promised Indian leaders to seek a free trade agreement, according to Yoshimura.
“As the importance of India in the global economy is growing, Japanese companies are expecting a promising future in the nation’s market,” Yoshimura said.
“Especially for small and mid-sized Japanese companies, improvement in the investment environment is essential, as well as reducing the levels of tariffs for imports from Japan,” he said.
Japan imports precious stones, steel and cotton products from India while major exports to India include machinery and electronics.
Indian finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram visited Tokyo last month and said that New Delhi hoped to secure a free-trade deal with Japan before China.
Japanese leaders have called for a strengthening of economic and political ties with India as a counterweight to China’s growing regional influence while Tokyo has also been seeking more free trade pacts amid a deadlock in multilateral negotiations.
It has signed free trade pacts with Singapore, Mexico and Malaysia and reached broad agreements with Thailand and the Philippines. It is also negotiating with South Korea, Indonesia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a whole.