Agence France Presse
Japan Seeks Free Trade Deal With Gulf
TOKYO, 28 February 2006 - Japan plans to begin talks with six Gulf Arab states this year toward a free-trade agreement in the aim of securing stable energy supplies, officials said yesterday.
Tokyo plans to open negotiations with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - which together provided about 75 percent of Japan’s oil imports in 2005. “We are coordinating with other relevant ministries and with our counterparts in GCC Gulf nations on the talks on a free-trade agreement,” said a Trade Ministry official in Tokyo.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso instructed government officials to accelerate the talks in the aim of securing energy resources, said the official, who declined to be named as is the usual policy. “Oil imports are certainly very important for Japan, but also exports to Gulf nations are attractive to industries such as automakers and construction machinery makers as the economies in those countries are robust thanks to high oil prices,” he added. He said Japanese business lobbies had been urging the government to move swiftly to open free trade talks with the Gulf nations.
“As China has started FTA talks with the GCC (members) in April last year and South Korea and India have similarly started talks, it is inevitable for Japan to start talks with them,” he said.
Japan has been widening efforts to break down trade barriers with its trade partners with a flurry of bilateral free trade deals. It has signed free trade pacts with Singapore and Mexico and reached similar broad agreements with Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.
It is also negotiating with South Korea, Indonesia, Chile and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a whole, and is moving toward talks with Australia, India, Switzerland, Vietnam and South Africa.