Japan agrees on concluding FTAs with Vietnam, Switzerland

[September 29, 2008]

Japan agrees on concluding FTAs with Vietnam, Switzerland

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) TOKYO, Sept. 29_(Kyodo)

Japan has struck separate basic deals with Vietnam and Switzerland to conclude bilateral free trade agreements after more than one year of negotiations, government officials said Monday.

Japan has found common ground on most issues regarding how to liberalize trade with Vietnam and Switzerland, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said at a news conference.

After the accord comes into effect, about 92 percent of Japan-Vietnam bilateral trade in value will be duty-free in 10 years, the officials said.

With Switzerland, tariffs on about 99 percent of the total value of bilateral trade will be eliminated in 10 years, they said.

The two agreements will come into effect as early as next year, the officials said.

Switzerland would be the first European country to conclude a free trade accord with Japan, which has so far signed so-called economic partnership agreements with nine economies including Singapore, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Chile.

Against the backdrop of a stalemate in the ongoing free trade talks under the World Trade Organization, Japan has accelerated its efforts to sign bilateral trade accords in recent years, especially with other Asian countries.

For Vietnam, this will be its first bilateral free trade agreement, according to the officials.

Japan launched negotiations with Vietnam in January 2007 and with Switzerland in May 2007.

In the course of the negotiations, Japan mainly called on Vietnam and Switzerland to scrap or cut import tariffs on industrial goods, including automobiles, auto parts and high-tech products.

Vietnam, the largest exporter of shrimps to Japan, was calling for duty-free market access to clothing, seafood and farm products.

Japan-Vietnam trade value totaled $12.26 billion in 2007, of which exports from Japan to the fast-growing country accounted for $6.12 billion, up 17.4 percent from the previous year, according to the officials.

source: TMC