Japan and Canada have agreed to formally launch soon talks on a bilateral free-trade agreement and boost energy cooperation.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper also said in Tokyo on Sunday that the two countries would work closely on security issues.
"Canada, a country in the Asia-Pacific region, is our partner sharing basic values. Not just economically, but also in terms of security, our links with Canada are strengthening," Noda told reporters after the meeting at his Tokyo office.
Harper said the launch of FTA talks was "a truly historic step that will help create jobs and growth for both countries." Canada will be the first member of the Group of Eight major economies to engage in FTA talks with Japan.
Earlier this month Japan and natural resources-rich Canada concluded a joint study on the feasibility of a free-trade accord, saying that their economies are largely complementary and that much potential remains to be tapped.
Japan has become much more active than it used to be about removing trade barriers with Canada, especially with Tokyo struggling to secure new energy supplies in the aftermath of the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Kyodo news agency reported.
Noda said both the countries had agreed to step up efforts to promote private-sector cooperation on trading natural gas and other resources.
With an FTA, the study estimated that the gains in GDP would range from $4.4 billion to $4.9 billion for Japan, and from $3.8 billion to $9 billion for Canada.
In 2010, Japan was Canada's fifth-biggest merchandise trading partner and Canada was Japan's 18th-largest export market. Japan exports mostly cars, machinery and other industrial products to Canada, while Canada mainly sells Japan natural resources and farm products, such as soybeans and pork.
Canada currently imposes a 6.1 percent tariff on vehicles imported from Japan. The Japanese automotive industry is strongly hoping the duty will be eliminated by the deal, but the talks with Canada are not expected to go easily because most farmers in Asia's second-biggest economy are not supportive of liberalizing the domestic market, the report said.
by RTT Staff Writer
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