RI-Japan EPA expected to be concluded before year-end

Tokyo (Antara News) - The Indonesian government hopes that an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) can be concluded with Japan before the end of 2007 as only a few sectors need to be agreed on in ongoing negotiations, an Indonesian diplomat said.

"We are hoping all chapters in the EPA can be agreed on before late this year as the two governments are committed to stepping up their two countries` economic cooperation," head of the rconomic affairs section at the Indonesian Embassy in Tokyo, Mirza Nurhidayat, said here Monday.

Indonesia would soon follow a number of other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member countries which had already signed EPAs with Japan, he said, adding that the Indonesia-Japan EPA was getting first priority considering the importance of economic relations between the two countries in the future.

"It has become important considering that next year Indonesia and Japan will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their bilateral relations including the two countries` economic ties," he said.

The two countries have now accomplished a number of chapters in the EPA like those on business competition, government procurement, taxation and intellectual property rights. The EPA concerns not only the trade and investment sectors but also the cooperation sector.

"Several sectors like those on energy, investment, trade and services are still under intensive discussions," he said.

Earlier, other ASEAN member countries like Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand had signed EPAs with Japan. The Japanese cabinet late last week reached an agreement on free trade with Thailand.

Brunei Darussalam and Vietnam are now entering the early stage of EPA negotiations with Japan.

According to Japan`s foreign ministry, the agreement was intended to accelerate trade and investment liberalization which would expand the two countries` economic activities.

Through the agreement, Japan and Thailand would scrap tariffs by more than 50 percent in their trade within ten years` time and Bangkok was expected to be more transparent and provide legal protection to Japanese investors.(*)
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