Japan trade talks with India hit bottleneck: Official

Economic Times, India

Japan trade talks with India hit bottleneck: Official

9 October 2008

By IST, AGENCIES

TOKYO: Prospects of Japan and India reaching a free-trade deal in time for a leaders’ summit this month have weakened, with a number of areas in dispute, a Japanese negotiator said on Thursday.

"We did not reach an agreement on the deal’s outline in the latest round of talks," the Japanese official said on the customary condition of anonymity after four-day negotiations in Tokyo.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Japan from October 21 to 23 and meet his new Japanese counterpart Taro Aso.

The two countries, which had failed to reach an outline of a free-trade deal by a deadline of mid-2008, hoped to make the progress during Singh’s visit.

But the Japanese official said the two countries would not hold further trade talks in the nearly two weeks before Singh arrives.

"It’s true that there are several particular areas which are more difficult than what we had expected," he said. "We still keep the stance that we aim to sign a deal as soon as possible," he said, but added: "It won’t be easy."

Talks have been bogged down largely on how much to reduce tariffs and what goals to set on investment. Japan, Asia’s largest economy, has been sealing a growing number of free-trade deals in hopes of ensuring export markets and raw materials after the collapse of global trade talks.

Aso, a former foreign minister who became prime minister last month, is a strong supporter of cementing Japan’s relationship with fellow democracy India, partly to balance Tokyo’s often uneasy ties with China.

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