Mainichi Japan | June 30, 2011
Japan proposes launch of economic dialogue with Mercosur
ASUNCION (Kyodo) — Japan proposed Wednesday launching a dialogue with Mercosur, the four-nation South American trade bloc, to boost economic relations and explore the possibility of signing a free trade agreement.
Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto said in a speech to the Mercosur summit in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion that it is "high time to move forward on mutually complementary bilateral ties and establish a new win-win relationship."
The minister said the envisioned framework is expected to look into ways to deepen Japan-Mercosur ties in trade, investment and other economic areas. "I believe the dynamic power of Mercosur will contribute to expanding our economic partnership and helping Japan rebuild" from the March 11 quake and tsunami, he said.
Matsumoto, the first Japanese foreign minister to attend a Mercosur summit, said South American nations are "important partners of Japan as suppliers of energy, mineral resources and food."
The proposed dialogue between Japan and the Mercosur members — Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay — is expected to involve officials of various ministries, according to Japanese officials.
They will study the possibility of an FTA, which has been requested by the business communities of Japan and Mercosur countries, the Japanese officials said.
The customs union, which will soon add Venezuela as a new member, has an FTA with Israel, has been negotiating free trade arrangements with the European Union, Jordan, Turkey and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, and has completed a joint FTA study with South Korea.
Mercosur members have a policy of signing trade pacts as a group.
In the speech, Matsumoto also pitched Japan’s advanced technologies, saying all the 27 bullet trains operating on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line stopped safely at the time of the March 11 disaster, leaving no one injured. Among the Mercosur members, Brazil is planning to build high-speed railways.
On the sidelines of the summit, Matsumoto held talks with Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo Mendez and Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno.
In his talks with Lugo, Matsumoto thanked Paraguay for its support for Japan following the March calamity, referring to tofu made of Paraguayan soy beans consumed by disaster victims, the officials said.
The two also signed documents to offer 130 million yen in Japanese grant aid to the South American country to support small-scale farmers by providing them with fertilizers, they said.
The Japanese minister urged his Chilean counterpart to ease restrictions on food imports from all of Japan’s 47 prefectures implemented due to radiation contamination fears stemming from the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the officials said.
Matsumoto also sought information on current negotiations among Chile, the United States and seven other countries on the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade pact. Moreno said Chile hopes Japan will join the TPP, as freer trade will help develop the nation’s economy following the March disaster, they said.
On Thursday, Matsumoto is scheduled to hold talks with his Brazilian counterpart Antonio Patriota in Brazil before returning home on Saturday.