Japan mulls free trade deals with Singapore, South Korea

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at SPAMbom4.vsnl.net.in
Mon Oct 9 08:29:04 MDT 2000


Sunday
8 October 2000

Japan mulls free trade deals with Singapore, South Korea
CHIANG MAI, Thailand: Japan and Singapore may soon begin formal negotiations
on a possible free trade linkup, senior Japanese officials said Saturday.
Takeo Hiranuma, Japanese minister of international trade and industry, is
set to travel to Singapore on Sunday to discuss the issue after attending a
meeting of Southeast Asian economic ministers in Thailand.
"We are seriously considering whether to kick of official negotiations," a
Japanese trade official said on condition of anonymity.
The possibility of free trade between two leading Asian economic powers was
proposed late last year by Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong on a
visit to Tokyo.
A joint government feasibility study was recently concluded and is now under
consideration of both countries, the official said. Japan is also
considering a tariff-free tie-up with South Korea, said Toshiya Tsugami,
director for Northeast Asia for the Japanese trade ministry.
While this has yet to negotiated at official level. After it was first
brought up in 1998, a joint academic study and symposiums have been held in
Tokyo and Seoul on the issue. The two countries are expected to set up a
joint business forum by the year's end.
"The general consensus is that at east in the long-term, there's a need for
the two countries to set up a free trade area to further strengthen economic
ties," Tsugami said.
Japan's attitudes have recently changed "dramatically" about the
desirability of bilateral free trade areas, which are now viewed as good for
promoting multilateral cooperation, he said. "Maybe the Asian economic
crisis has changed the thinking of both Japan and other Asian countries,"
Tsugami said. "One reason why Asia was hardest hit was the lack of regional
cooperation."(AP)
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