RI, Japan to open markets to each other

Jakarta (Antara News) - Indonesia and Japan will open their markets to each other by cutting import duties on 90 percent of their tariff posts after they have signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), an Indonesian cabinet minister said.

"The EPA is a comprehensive agreement under which the two countries will open their markets to 90 percent of each other`s tariff posts," Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said here on Friday.

Some of the tariff posts would be reduced to nil percent, while others would be cut in stages within a period of three to 10 years.

"Import duties on goods included in the list of sensitive products will be cut within a period of 10 years or more," the minister said.

Meanwhile, the remaining 10 percent of the tariff posts would be put in the exclusion list as they were considered to be crucial products in need of protection.

The agreement would also include clauses on bilateral cooperation which provided for technical assistance and capacity building programs to improve Indonesia`s product competitiveness and ability to attract foreign investors.

"For Indonesia, we hope that Japanese investments will increase. And the products and investments which will come to Indonesia, could support the existing investments," the minister said.

The minister hoped that the Bill on Investment being discussed by the House of Representatives (DPR) could be passed as soon as possible so it could help induce the conclusion of the EPA.

Mahendra Siregar, a deputy to the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, said the Investment Bill and amendments to the Negative Investment List (DNI) were significant factors in the completion of EPA negotiations.

Mahendra , an Indonesian negotiator on the investment clauses in the EPA, said the Indonesia-Japan Joint Forum on Investment had produced a Strategic Investment Action Plan (SIAP).

EPA negotiations had so far been held six times since July 2005 in Bali, and the last round was done in Tokyo in October 2006.

The negotiations were expected to reach their final stage next week when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visits Japan.

Trade Minister Pangestu estimated the EPA would be signed in the middle of 2007.

The signing of EPA would guarantee Indonesia`s access to the Japanese market s and put Indonesia on the same level as Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines which had signed similar agreements with Japan.(*)
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