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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Indonesia, Japan starts "substantial" FTA negotiations


Text of report in English by Japanese news agency Kyodo

Jakarta, 14 February: Indonesia and Japan have entered substantial negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement in their latest round of talks in Jakarta, raising hopes that a basic agreement can be reached later this year, Indonesian and Japanese government officials said Tuesday [14 February].

"Now, we have a common understanding that both sides will do their best to reach a basic agreement in the summer, (and) the summer means, to my understanding, June or July," a Japanese official said at the end of the five-day Japan-Indonesia Economic Partnership Agreement talks.

Indonesian Ambassador to the United States Soemadi Brotodiningrat, who led the Indonesian delegation in the third round of negotiations, told Kyodo News that Japan and Indonesia exchanged lists of requests and tariff reduction offers for various items.

"We made major progress here, and as in any other negotiations, the more we step forward, the more we can see the problems we are facing," Brotodiningrat, a former Indonesian ambassador to Japan, said without elaborating.

Japanese officials said Indonesia sought improved access for its labour force to Japan, particularly helpers for elderly people, seamen, and factory workers.

The Japanese delegation, headed by Deputy Japanese Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka, also reiterated its request that Jakarta improve its investment climate to lure more Japanese businesses.

Negotiators agreed to hold the next round of negotiations in the third week of April, according the Indonesian and Japanese officials.

"The meeting will be very important...If we won't see major progress then, it will be difficult to reach a basic agreement in the summer," the Japanese official said.

The two countries, which launched the EPA talks in July, had agreed to hold such talks every two months. Both Japanese and Indonesian officials have indicated their goal of completing the EPA negotiations in less than two years.

Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 1145 gmt 14 Feb 06
BBC Monitoring

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