Japan and Vietnam agreed Friday to begin full-fledged negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement as soon as necessary conditions are met, Japan’s trade minister said. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai said Vietnamese Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen told him in their meeting in Kuala Lumpur that Vietnam wants to speed up the process toward a bilateral FTA.
“We agreed that if conditions can be met, we will move immediately to the negotiation stage,” Nikai told reporters.
The two ministers, who were meeting on the sidelines of a series of meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their dialogue partners, had agreed last month to begin exploring the merits and demerits of a bilateral FTA at a study forum.
The study forum will begin talks in January, Nikai said.
Vietnam is a member of ASEAN, which has been in formal FTA talks with Japan since April. The 10-member regional body and Japan aim to complete their FTA negotiations by the end of March 2007.
Japan has signed a bilateral free trade pact with Singapore and has almost closed deals with Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. It is just starting negotiations with Indonesia.
Nikai said he also met briefly with Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila on the sidelines of Friday’s multilateral meetings and agreed to promote economic cooperation between the two countries.