Japan, Australia study possibility of FTA

Tokyo, November 2:

Japan and Australia have began studying the possibility of a free trade pact following an agreement in April between tle leaders of the two countries, officials said Wednesday.

Tokyo and Sydney intend to wrap up the feasibility study by spring 2007, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.

“The study aims for Japan and Australia to raise their economic relations to a higher level,” said Masahi Takahashi, an official in the ministry’s Asia and Oceanic Affairs Bureau.

Australia has long sought a free trade deal with Japan, which is its largest export market and third-biggest source of investment.

However, Japan is heavily protective of its farmers, and agricultural goods are among Australia’s biggest exports.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Australian Prime Minister John Howard agreed in April to launch a study to evaluate the feasibility of a free trade agreement.

Japan exported 1.147 trillion yen (US$10.72 billion; euro 8.27 billion) worth of goods, including automobiles, to Australia in 2003.

Japan’s imports from Australia totaled 1.745 trillion yen (US$16.30 billion; euro12.57 billion), including 49 percent of the beef and 22 percent the wheat consumed in Japan that year.

Japan already has free trade agreements with Singapore and Mexico and has reached basic agreements with the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia.

Australia has free trade agreements with the United States, Singapore, Thailand and New Zealand.