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Japan, India start second round of trade talks

ABC Radio Australia

Japan, India Start Second Round of Trade Talks

9 April 2007

Japan and India have opened a second round of talks on a free trade deal that the two countries aim to seal within two years.

Officials say the four-day talks follow a first round in New Delhi in February that led to the creation of working groups to focus on trade in goods, services, investment and bilateral cooperation.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe pledged in December to conclude the talks within two years, reflecting Tokyo’s desire to strengthen ties with India to compensate for tensions with China.

Japan is seeking cuts to India’s 100 percent tariffs on vehicle imports and the creation of common rules on investment and services, officials said.

The Indian delegation meanwhile is pressing for deregulation of Japanese customs inspections, cuts to tariffs on shrimp imports and a loosening of visa rules for Indian medical care workers and engineers.

In a gesture of goodwill, Japan last June lifted a ban on the import of mangoes from India, a long-standing demand.

Bilateral trade between Japan and India hovers at only six billion dollars, compared with the more than 170 billion dollars of trade between Japan and China.

Japan, the world’s second largest economy and a major exporter, has been seeking a growing number of free trade deals against a backdrop of stalled global trade liberalisation talks.

Since signing its first agreement with Singapore in 2002, Japan has sealed trade agreements or framework deals with Brunei, Chile, Indonesia, Mexico, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

India is also looking at a range of trade pacts, including with China, South Korea and Australia, to add to its existing deals with Thailand and Singapore.