Japan, Colombia launch FTA talks

Kyodo

Japan and Colombia held their first round of talks Monday in Tokyo on a free-trade agreement, with stronger ties through such an accord expected to promote cooperation with a regional economic grouping in Latin America.

Tokyo and Bogota are slated to discuss areas to be covered by the possible bilateral pact and terms of reference, with the Japanese side represented by Jun Yokota, ambassador in charge of economic diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry.

“The joint study we conducted has highlighted the fact that both countries have a mutual, complementary economic relationship,” Yokota said at the outset of the talks. “In my view, that will allow us to construct a win-win-type relationship.”

Javier Gamboa, Colombia’s chief negotiator, said Japan is “definitely the key” in Bogota’s strategy of being “close” to the Asia-Pacific region. “We hope that the agreement is going to catalyze more investment (from) Japan and it will be a win-win situation.”

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos agreed in September to start FTA talks following a report in July by a joint study group that found potential mutual benefits in pursuing a bilateral FTA and called for talks to be initiated.

Japan mainly exports industrial goods like automobiles and steel products to Colombia, while Colombia mainly exports coffee and other farm products to Japan.

Colombia is a member of the Alliance of the Pacific, a regional grouping that pursues economic integration among member states and seeks to strengthen political and economic ties with the Asia-Pacific region. Mexico, Peru and Chile are also alliance members.