Sun, Aug 26, 2007 - Page 11 News List

Japan and ASEAN near FTA agreement

AFP , MANILA

Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are nearing completion of a free trade agreement which will hopefully be signed during a summit later this year, an official said yesterday.

Ramon Kabigting, the assistant trade secretary of the Philippines, which is hosting an ASEAN economic ministers' conference, said the draft on trade in goods had been completed and they would now discuss the agreement on services and investment.

"The text of the chapter on services is already prepared, It is acceptable to both Japan and ASEAN but we cannot say it is done until we agree on other things like economic cooperation and so on," Kabigting said.

"Right now the services text is acceptable to both parties, the investment text acceptable to both," but both sides must approve the whole agreement together, he said.

Under the accord, Japan will abolish tariffs on 90 percent of their imports from ASEAN. This list of items with no tariffs will be expanded every five years, Kabigting said.

He stressed that certain politically-sensitive items were exempted from immediate trade liberalization under the agreement which is expected to be signed at an ASEAN summit in Singapore in November.

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