Abe takes in Louvre upon arrival in France


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Paris on Sunday for the fifth stage of his six-nation swing through Europe and immediately left for a private visit to the Louvre that included stops at the museum’s best known works, including the “Mona Lisa.”

His visit to France was to go in full gear Monday with a meeting with President Francois Hollande, followed by a joint press conference and a meeting with French businessmen at the Paris Chamber of Commerce.

Japanese diplomatic sources said that while no major business deals were expected in Paris, his talks with the French would focus on the free-trade pact Tokyo is trying to forge with the European Union. The FTA has been snagged by problems with tariffs and trade barriers.

The EU wants progress on nontariff barriers, while Abe is hoping to end customs duties on Japanese autos, a sensitive topic for major car producer Germany.

The Japanese sources said another important item up for discussion will be the tension between Tokyo and Beijing over the Senkaku Islands.

Japan on Sunday sent a team of senior lawmakers to China on a fence-mending visit.

On Tuesday, Abe is due to meet OECD head Angel Gurria and deliver a speech to the organization.

Experts say Abe is likely to tout his economic policy of big fiscal spending, radical monetary easing and vows of reform dubbed “Abenomics,” which is designed to drag the nation out of years of deflation and tepid growth.

Abe’s tour has taken him to Germany, Britain, Portugal, and Spain, so far. Next after France is Belgium.