ASIA-PACIFIC FORUM IN MEXICO

Indonesia seeks bilateral trade pact

Kyodo

An Indonesian trade official proposed Wednesday that a bilateral free-trade agreement be formed with Japan, a Japanese trade official said.

Rini Soewandi, Indonesia’s industry and trade minister, made the suggestion following Japan’s recent agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to set up a regional FTA within 10 years.

Indonesia, an ASEAN member, wants to enhance economic relations with Japan, Rini was quoted as telling Sanae Takaichi, the senior vice minister of economy, trade and industry.

The officials were meeting on the sidelines of a two-day meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which began Wednesday.

Takaichi responded that Tokyo is willing to consider the possibility of the proposed FTA and suggested Jakarta make a formal proposal through diplomatic channels.

Japan has already launched preliminary talks with Thailand and the Philippines on an FTA.

Japan concluded its first FTA in January with Singapore and agreed with ASEAN in September to begin talks next year to bolster economic ties through such means as an FTA.

On the Oct. 12 bombings on the island of Bali, which killed almost 200 people, Takaichi called on Jakarta for a thorough investigation and steps to prevent a recurrence of such attacks, saying steps are needed to help the Indonesian economy recover and to improve the investment climate there.

Rini promised that Jakarta would do its best but asked for economic assistance from Japan as a major trading partner and the largest investor in Indonesia.

Takaichi also solicited Indonesia’s support for a Japanese proposal that APEC set up an Intellectual Property Rights Service Center to provide information to businesses hit by trade piracy, but Rini avoided making a clear commitment to the proposal.

Japan’s intellectual property initiative has been dead in the water since meeting staunch opposition from China in preparatory talks by senior officials that ended Tuesday. Indonesia and Russia supported China’s stance.

Meanwhile, in separate talks held here, Japan and Mexico agreed to make efforts to conclude planned negotiations for a bilateral free-trade agreement at an early date, Japanese officials said.

The accord came during discussions between Luis Ernesto Derbez, Mexican secretary of the economy, and Toshimitsu Motegi, senior vice foreign minister, as well as Takaichi.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Mexican President Vincente Fox will launch bilateral FTA negotiations on Sunday when they meet after the APEC summit.

On Wednesday, Japan and Mexico also agreed to cooperate for a successful conclusion by January 2005 of a new round of global trade talks.