Japan aiming to expand scope of free trade agreements

Daily Yomiuri Online | 26 March 2004

Govt aiming to expand scope of free trade agreements

Yomiuri Shimbun

The government has decided to expand the scope of its free trade agreement negotiations with several Asian countries, including South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia, aiming to conclude comprehensive economic partnership agreements (EPAs), government officials said Wednesday.

EPAs cover a broader range of economic spheres, including taxation, investment and acceptance of workers, while FTAs focus on trade issues.

With the EPAs in mind, the government reportedly plans to set up a ministerial council, involving the foreign and finance ministers as well as their counterparts from the the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said: "Unlike the FTA with Mexico, agreements with Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia will have a significantly broader scope of economic partnership. However, since many ministries are involved, we need a place to coordinate efforts made by each ministry."

If EPAs are realized, Japan is expected to enjoy benefits such as tax exemption for dividends and interest payments from affiliated firms in the host countries and obtaining profits from intellectual property-related businesses, even while its negotiating partners press hard for compromise in agricultural trade.

In addition, Japanese business enterprises likely will find investment easier in other countries in Asia, eventually helping the yen to gain more influence in the region.

In the meantime, the government will strive to conclude negotiations on tax treaties with Asian nations along with negotiations for FTAs, the sources said, adding that it plans to urge Thailand and the Philippines to shift bilateral FTA negotiations to EPA ones when the government holds separate meetings with officials of the two countries next month.

Copyright 2004 The Yomiuri Shimbun

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