EU seeks firmer Japan ties on Iraq, North Korea

European Commission President Romano Prodi called Monday for stronger cooperation between the European Union and Japan on rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, achieving a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and restoring democracy in Myanmar.

Prodi, in Tokyo to attend the Japan-EU summit Tuesday, also urged Japan to “move to the next stage of economic relations” with the 25-nation EU by making it far easier for both sides on trade and investment.

The EU chief said in a speech that the two sides must act together now to deliver past promises on implementation of the Doha round of multilateral global trade talks under the World Trade Organization and the Kyoto Protocol to curb global warming.

Ways to help state-building in Iraq and to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are expected to top the agenda at the Japan-EU summit, to be attended by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, current holder of the EU presidency.

Japan and the European Union plan to urge the U.S.-led forces in Iraq to follow international law in the wake of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers, according to diplomatic sources.

They are also expected to press North Korea to take clear steps toward “comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear programs,” while touching on the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese, the sources said.

Prodi meanwhile asked Japanese businesses to step up trade and investment with the European Union, saying the historic EU enlargement on May 1 has brought benefits for Japanese companies.

“Japan is a huge net beneficiary of enlargement,” Prodi said. “On tariffs, for instance, there has been a drop on average from 9 percent to 3.6 percent.”

He also noted investment deals in Japan by European companies, citing Renault S.A.’s alliance with Nissan Motor Co. and Vodafone Group PLC’s advance into Japan’s mobile phone market.

On May 1, the European Union welcomed eight new member states from Central and Eastern Europe.