Japan, Canada to launch free-trade talks
TOKYO JAPAN and Canada formally agreed on Sunday to launch talks on a free trade agreement expected to result in the first such pact between Tokyo and one of the Group of Eight major economies.
The agreement was announced by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper after a meeting in Tokyo.
They also agreed to boost cooperation between their energy industries, as Canada has abundant natural resources such as natural gas and Japan relies on imports for much of its energy needs.
Most of Japan’s nuclear reactors remain offline in the wake of a massive earthquake and tsunami sparked a crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in March last year.
Noda and Harper also agreed to accelerate talks on a security cooperation agreement, officials said.
“Our two countries are deepening ties not only in economic areas but also in security areas,” Noda told a news conference after the meeting. “It is extremely important to strengthen the relationship further.” “This is a truly historic step that will help create jobs and growth for both countries,” Harper said.
Harper arrived in Tokyo late Saturday and was due to tour Japan’s northeast, which was hit by the quake-tsunami disaster.
He will travel on to Seoul on Monday to attend a nuclear security summit with other world leaders including Noda.
Japan and Canada concluded a joint study on the feasibility of a trade deal this month, which said the two countries’ economies were largely complementary.
“Canada is endowed with rich energy and other natural resources,” the study said, adding that “Japan is a major importer of these resources and has developed cuttingedge technologies for energy conservation and clean energy.” Japan was Canada’s fifth largest trading partner in 2010 and Canada was Japan’s 18th.
Japan is expected to press for the elimination of Canada’s 6.1-percent import tariff on Japanese vehicles while Canada hopes to open the Japanese market for agricultural products including wheat.
The security accord is aimed at allowing Japanese and Canadian forces to acquire supplies and services from each other when they engage in United Nations peacekeeping operations and disaster relief.