Japan To Create New Economic Task Force

The panel will focus on economic integration agreement with the European Union.

TOKYO — The Japanese business world will launch a task force this month to consider a proposed economic integration agreement, or EIA, between Japan and the European Union, including liberalization of trade, informed sources said Tuesday.
The move is the first step toward future bilateral government-to-government negotiations and was prompted by South Korea's free trade negotiations with the European Union that started in May.
Japanese electronics manufacturers, which have competed fiercely with their South Korean counterparts to expand exports to the European Union, have made a strong request for the private-sector task force, the sources said.
The task force will include delegates from the Japan Business Federation known as Nippon Keidanren, as well as the Japan-EU Business Dialogue Roundtable, a forum of Japanese and EU business leaders, they said.
It will hold its first meeting Oct. 10 and compile a recommendation by the summer of 2008, the sources said.
The Japan-EU EIA would include unification of environmental regulations and product standards as well as liberalization of trade in goods and services, leading to a giant market covering some 40 percent of global gross domestic product.
The task force will consider how best to harmonize regulations between Japan and the European Union to facilitate bilateral trade and economic growth, the sources said. The European Union is known for its tough regulations on hazardous substances, which cover Japanese exports to the EU market.
The focus of attention regarding trade liberalization will include Japan's reduction of tariffs on agricultural products that may affect relevant domestic industry sectors, the sources said.
The Japanese business world is expected to call for lower EU tariffs on such Japanese products as electronics and vehicles, they said.