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Japan to Open Economy After Lagging Behind on Free Trade: PM
Source: google.com
Source Date: Saturday, November 13, 2010
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs, Thematic Website, Knowledge Management in Government, Citizen Engagement
Country: Japan
Created: Nov 15, 2010

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan admitted his country is "lagging behind" in terms of free trade and promised to open up its sluggish economy to Asia and the world.

"Many countries in the world, especially in this APEC region, are proactively opening up their countries to establish free-trade areas by sealing economic partnership agreements," Kan said on Saturday, ahead of a Pacific Rim summit.

"To be honest with you, our country was a little lagging behind in terms of riding the wave towards that movement," he told a business conference on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

"But our prosperity is connected with the world. Especially we have to grow with the fast developing economies of Asia Pacific. Without that connection we can't count on our prosperity," he said.

"Japan will be opening up."

Kan's government is edging towards a US-led plan for a regional trade treaty known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but has deferred until June a decision on whether to join talks on membership.

The TPP, a once-obscure group now being backed by the United States, is gaining momentum as a vehicle towards ambitions of creating a wider treaty embracing more than half the world's economy.

It is seen as a vital building block for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) -- which would link economies from China to Chile and the US but currently remains an undefined and long-term goal.

The TPP so far has just four signed-up members -- Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore -- who have agreed to drop most tariffs and other trade barriers.

The world's largest economy, the United States, is now in talks to join the group, as are Australia, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam, and many other nations are expected to jump on the bandwagon.

Beijing, which this year overtook Japan as Asia's biggest economy, has not yet made a decision but "is actively studying (TPP) with interest," Chinese ambassador Cheng Yonghua was quoted as telling the Nikkei daily recently.

Kan also stressed the importance of making Japan's highly-protected farm sector more competitive in the global market -- in a reference to domestic opposition against the TPP.

Heated debate has broken out within the Japanese government on joining the pact, with the trade ministry in favour but the agriculture ministry opposed, fearing the impact of cheap imports on farmers.

More than 3,000 demonstrators rallied against it in Tokyo on Wednesday.
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