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Japan, US business leaders seek far-reaching bilateral pact

Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006

Japan, U.S. business leaders seek far-reaching bilateral pact

Kyodo News

Japanese and U.S. business leaders said Monday the time is ripe for their governments to formally study the possibility of forming an economic partnership agreement.

Business councils from both countries, meeting in Tokyo, said they "continue to believe that conclusion of a high-level, comprehensive and commercially meaningful Economic Partnership Agreement between the United States and Japan is a positive and worthy objective."

The councils were wrapping up a two-day annual meeting.

"In the councils’ view, the timing is right for both governments, in cooperation with the private sector, to begin a formal study of the outlines and essential areas of coverage in such an agreement," the leaders said.

During the 43rd conference of bilateral business councils, about 60 Japan and U.S. business leaders, including Nomura Holdings Inc. Chairman Junichi Ujiie and Pfizer Inc. Vice Chairman Karen Katen, discussed political and economic issues, ranging from an economic partnership agreement to the aging society, health care and intellectual property.

They said they continue to envision an economic partnership agreement as a "free trade agreement-plus" pact "that would have to encompass ’substantially all the trade’ in goods, including agriculture, as well as ’substantial sectoral coverage’ in services, as required under World Trade Organization rules."

They said the pact "would be a significant and unprecedented undertaking requiring high-level political commitment by both governments."

Ujiie, speaking at a news conference, said discussions on the envisioned pact did not gather steam for many years but recently "expectations have been rising to a considerable degree."

"It won’t be built in a day, but by continuing our process, we want to forge an economic partnership agreement, when the time is right, which can be seen as a model case" for other countries in a manner consistent with trade rules under the World Trade Organization, Ujiie, the Japanese chair of the meeting, said.

 source: Japan Times