Japan, Turkey agree to study FTA prospects

Kyodo

Japan and Turkey agreed Thursday to look into the possibility of negotiating a bilateral free-trade agreement, which would give Tokyo better access to a high-growth market and Ankara a way to tap into the world’s third-largest economy.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba and trade minister Yukio Edano reached the agreement with visiting Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan during a meeting in Tokyo.

They also signed a memorandum on setting up a framework for economic cooperation to strengthen bilateral trade and investment and for holding annual bilateral ministerial talks on such matters.

Japan and Turkey are expected to ask representatives of academic, industrial and governmental entities to begin the joint study by the end of the year to determine whether the two countries should begin formal FTA negotiations.

The move reflects Tokyo’s desire to drive economic growth by expanding investment and trade with fast-growing emerging countries as demand at home wanes with the graying of the population. Turkey’s economy expanded 8.5 percent in 2011.

Ankara is also eager to increase Japan-bound exports. Turkish exports to Japan totaled ¥41.1 billion in 2011, far smaller than Japan’s ¥244.5 billion in exports to Turkey.

Pointing to Turkey’s strong economic growth and abundance of young workers, Edano told the meeting that Japan’s business community had high hopes for an FTA with the Middle Eastern nation.

“We would like to ask your cooperation to have the joint study progress swiftly,” he said during a portion of the meeting that was open to the press.

Caglayan was quoted by a Japanese official as saying Ankara wants to begin formal FTA negotiations after the joint study is finished.