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Free Trade
August 25, 2007
Two sides likely to sign pact in November

Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations may agree in November to form a free- trade area, following four years of talks.

Japan's Trade and Industry Minister Akira Amari and his Asean counterparts are meeting in Manila this weekend as part of Asean's annual talks between trade ministers.

``Asean and Japan expeditiously will proceed with the work on the text in order to conclude the economic partnership agreement by November,'' the ministers said in a statement today. Japan and the 10 Asean members would then seek approval of the agreement from their respective parliaments.

Asean-Japan trade totaled $154 billion in 2005, 13 percent of the group's total exports and imports, according to Asean data. Direct spending from Japan rose 50 percent to $10.8 billion last year, making the country Asean's biggest source of foreign direct investment, the ministers said.

``Japan's economy appears to be on the road to recovery,'' said Song Seng-Wun, an economist at CIMB-GK Securities Pte in Singapore. ``There are increased opportunities for Japanese firms investing abroad to come here.''

Asean members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Bloomberg reports

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