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Thu, May 02, 2002 - Page 21 News List

Australia, Japan grow closer


Koizumi and Howard.


Australia and Japan have agreed to forge closer economic links, discuss free trade and strengthen regional security, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Prime Minister John Howard said in a joint statement. Japan is Australia's biggest export market and trade between the two countries is worth some US$21.5 billion, with Australia carrying a US$4.8 billion surplus. "The relationship between Australia and Japan is a very important one," Howard told reporters after meeting Koizumi during his first visit to Australia as prime minister. "We agreed that a free-trade agreement was a desirable goal. It will take some time and it will not be easy," he said. Australia wants Japan to remove tariffs on agriculture, including a 38.5 percent levy on beef, and stop government support to Japanese farmers, something Koizumi said was not "insurmountable."

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