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Japan, Vietnam agree to start official FTA talks

Friday April 28, 2006

Japan, Vietnam agree to start official FTA talks

(Kyodo) — Japan and Vietnam agreed on Friday to launch formal negotiations aimed at sealing a bilateral free trade agreement later this year, Japanese officials said.

The two countries reached the accord during a three-day FTA study session in Tokyo to explore the feasibility of such a pact. The timing of starting the formal negotiation process and details on areas to be covered by the accord have yet to be fixed, they said.

For Vietnam, Japan will be the first country it will enter into bilateral FTA negotiations with. For Japan, Vietnam will be the sixth Southeast Asian economy with which it will hold official talks on the pact.

Vietnam, a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, will strive to conclude FTA talks with Japan by next March.

Regarding ASEAN members, Japan has an FTA with Singapore and has signed one with Malaysia. It has struck basic accords for similar undertakings with the Philippines and Thailand, and been in official talks with Indonesia.

With Brunei, Japan has held preparatory FTA talks and is aiming to start the negotiation process later this year. Tokyo, however, does not intend to sign bilateral free trade accords with the other ASEAN economies of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Meanwhile, Japan and Singapore agreed Friday in Tokyo to start reviewing in June their FTA, which came into effect in November 2002, the Japanese officials said.

The two countries were originally scheduled to reexamine the pact every five years but decided to start the review process earlier in view of the multilateral FTA negotiations between Japan and ASEAN, they added.

Tokyo and Singapore have suggested to each other they will renegotiate rules of products’ origin, improvement of market access through tariff cuts in Japan, better arrangements in Singapore’s financial service sector, customs procedures and whether to mutually give most-favored-nation treatment, the officials said.

Under the FTA, Singapore eliminated its tariffs on all the products, while Japan offers tariff-free market access for 94 percent of its goods in terms of trade value.

Singapore has shown interest in taking up the liberalization of petrochemicals trade as they are major export items for the country, they said.

 source: Kyodo