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Japan to speed trade talks with Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines

Jakarta Post

Japan to speed trade talks with Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines

10 December 2005

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP): Japan said Saturday it had agreed to accelerate negotiations on separate free-trade pacts with Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines in meetings held ahead of the inaugural East Asia Summit.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and his Thai counterpart Kantathi Suphamongkhon resolved to speed up work on the details of a bilateral economic partnership agreement, Japan said in a brief statement.

Japan and Thailand reached broad agreement in September but are yet sign the deal.

"The two ministers agreed to order working-level officials to speed up the work on the text and to aim at signing the agreement at the earliest possible time," the statement said.

The two ministers expressed hopes that the East Asia Summit, which convenes here Wednesday, would be a major factor in the eventual formation of an economically integrated East Asia community, the statement said.

Aso and Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda also agreed to accelerate ongoing negotiations toward a bilateral free-trade pact, another Japanese statement said. The two nations began the talks in July.

Hasan thanked Japan for its assistance in the aftermath of last year’s catastrophic tsunami and in dealing with the bird flu epidemic.

Meanwhile, Japan said that Philippines Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo told Aso that his country hoped to sign a free-trade deal with Tokyo next year, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the normalization of relations.

Japan and the Philippines, which reached a basic accord over the deal a year ago, initially hoped to sign it this year.

But they are yet to ink the agreement, with Japan stressing liberalization of investment and services and improvement of the investment environment in the Philippines, which for its part has pushed for improved flow of its workers to Japan, particularlynurses.