TMCnet News

3RD LD: Japan agrees on concluding FTAs with Vietnam, Switzerland+
[September 29, 2008]

3RD LD: Japan agrees on concluding FTAs with Vietnam, Switzerland+

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

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.

Switzerland was urging Japan to liberalize imports of such products as cheese, wine, chocolates and instant coffee, according to the officials.

On how to treat Swiss cheese and other dairy imports to Japan, the two countries still need to make some adjustments but the two countries have already agreed that Japan's current tariffs on most other Swiss food items will be either abolished or reduced in the near future, a trade ministry official said

Japan's exports to Switzerland amounted to 355 billion yen in 2007, while Swiss exports to Japan stood at about 613 billion yen, with wristwatches accounting for nearly one-third of the total.

Since the mid-1990s, Switzerland's trade surplus with Japan has been expanding partly because nearly 80 percent of Japanese exports are currently subject to Swiss tariffs, according to the Japanese trade ministry.

In contrast, about 80 percent of Swiss imports to Japan in 2007 were free from tariff barriers, the ministry said.

The economic partnership agreements will also cover cooperation in investment and services, in addition to trade in goods.

Among Japan's economic partnership agreements, the accord with Switzerland for the first time contained a set of provisions on electronic commerce, the officials said.

Also by the end of this year, Japan is currently aiming to work out a basic deal on an economic partnership agreement with India.

Copyright ? 2008 Kyodo News International, Inc.

[ Back To's Homepage ]