Japan is planning to launch separate negotiations with India and Vietnam early next year on concluding free trade agreements, with new prime minister Shinzo Abe expected to lay the groundwork for the talks with leaders of the two countries by the end of the year, government sources said Thursday September 28.
Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung is scheduled to visit Japan in mid-October and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh is expected to do so in mid-December. The two leaders will hold their first summit talks with Abe during their trips, they said.
Abe’s predecessor Junichiro Koisumi and Singh adopted an FTA report compiled by a joint study group when they met in St. Petersburg in July on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit. The document recommended the two countries start FTA negotiations “within a reasonable period of time.”
Koisumi also met with Dung in Helsinki in early September on the occasion of the Asia-Europe Meeting summit. The two were both positive about starting FTA talks at an early date, following two rounds of FTA study sessions earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Japan aims to strike a framework free trade accord with Indonesia during the first official trip to Japan by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono slated for late November, the sources said.
Tokyo and Jakarta launched FTA negotiations in July last year and have since held five rounds of talks. The next meeting is scheduled for mid-October in Tokyo.
Abe is known to be particularly interested in India as he views the country as a “new partner in Asia.” Two-way trade between the countries reached US$6.8 billion in 2005, but the amount was tiny compared with US$189.4 billion between Japan and China.
Japan’s main export items to India include machinery, electric appliances, transport equipment and steel, while Indian exports to Japan consist of jewellery, marine products, iron ore and textiles.
With Vietnam, Japan’s trade value reached US$7.05 billion in 2004. Main Japanese exports include machinery, steel and auto parts, while imports from Vietnam consist of fisheries products, garments and electric cables.
Japan is also the 1 investor in Vietnam.