Japan ready for talks on EU free trade deal

TOKYO, May 20, 2011 (AFP) - Japan said on Friday it wanted to start
talks on an EU-Japan free trade deal to link the world's third largest
economy and the leading global market, a report said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan told his cabinet ministers to work on reforms
demanded by the European Union, such as removing non-tariff trade
barriers and liberalising public procurement, Kyodo News reported.

The premier's remarks came as ministers resumed discussions on trade
liberalisation issues, which had been suspended in the wake of the
March 11 earthquake, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Japan has been pressing the European Union hard to announce the launch
of formal negotiations towards a deal at a summit in Brussels on May
27 and 28.

On prompting by Britain, leaders of the 27-nation bloc called in March
for the speedy launch of negotiations for a free trade deal to assist
disaster-struck Japan -- but on the proviso that Tokyo lift trade

Trade ties between the two have consistently shown a strong surplus in
favour of Japan -- the EU currently being Japan's third largest trade
partner while Japan is Europe's fifth largest.

Japan has been eager to launch free trade negotiations with the
European Union as it believes the elimination of EU tariffs on cars
and electrical appliances would benefit Japanese companies.

But the EU is looking to Japan to scrap non-tariff barriers, including
on food, while offering better general access to European firms.

During a brief stop in Brussels this month by Foreign Minister Takeaki
Matsumoto, his spokesman said Tokyo hoped for a quick trade agreement
to ease recovery from the quake and tsunami.

Officials from both sides are currently working at defining a "scoping
exercise" -- a to-do list scheduling the obstacles to overcome before
the launch of free trade negotiations. That is expected to be agreed
at the summit.