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Japan to propose 16-nation Asian FTA, including India

PTI | 2 August 2006

Japan to propose 16-nation Asian FTA including India

TOKYO: Japan’s trade minister will propose forming a 16-nation East Asian free trade zone, including India, that covers half the world’s population and a quarter of its gross domestic product at an upcoming regional forum, an official said.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai will call for a pan-Asian FTA - involving India, Australia, China, Korea, Japan and New Zealand, along with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - at an ASEAN ministerial gathering in Kuala Lumpur later this month, according to ministry official Hideyasu Tamura.

The proposed free trade area has a combined population of 3.1 billion people and combined gross domestic product of almost $10 trillion, or almost half of the world’s population and a quarter of its GDP.

That’s more people than the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement nations combined, and almost match the United States’ GDP of $12.5 trillion.

The figures are based on UN and World Bank statistics for 2005. GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced within a country.

Japanese officials have said they hope the initiative will help stimulate trade, as well as enhance Japan’s presence in the region.

Tokyo hopes to dilute the influence of China, which earlier suggested a more limited trade zone excluding India, Australia and New Zealand.

"The participation of democracies like India and Australia would enable the region to forge more open economic partnerships," Tamura said.

 source: Economic Times