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Aust, Japan free trade agreement likely worth billions

Australia Broadcasting Corporation | December 13, 2006

Aust, Japan free trade agreement likely worth billions

Australia and Japan are set to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement potentially worth billions of dollars.

Despite growing concern in Japan over the impact a free trade agreement could have on local farmers, the Prime Minister John Howard and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe have agreed to begin formal negotiations in the new year.

Mr Howard says agriculture will be included.

"Now that’s a very sensitive thing for the Japanese and obviously they want all of the options on the table as part of the negotiation, but the fact that agriculture is on the table is a huge breakthrough and a great tribute to the work of both Warren Truss and Mark Vaile have done in preparation for this announcement," he said.

Japan’s agriculture ministry had pushed to have some items excluded from the talks after a report found removing tariffs on Australian beef, sugar, wheat and dairy products could cost the local economy billions of dollars.

But Mr Howard says that has not happened.

He says he does not expect the negotiations will be easy.

"It will be long, it will be difficult, there will be sensitivities on both sides," he said.

"There’s not much point in talking about what the outcome will be at this stage, the really important thing is that we have started with everything on the table and that’s a huge breakthrough."

It is estimated a free trade agreement between the two nations could be worth up to $39 billion to Australia.

 source: ABC