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Japan was to submit to a World Trade Organization committee in Geneva on July 11 its package of initial offers to liberalize financial services, including steps for greater deregulation in the areas of insurance and foreign exchange control.

The offers stipulate that foreign insurers would be able to supply insurance for Japanese ships and aircraft used for international shipping and commercial flights without being established in Japan, and also set up insurance brokering services. In addition, Japanese branches of foreign life insurance firms would no longer be required to keep their assets in yen.

Also, regulations that previously controlled foreign exchange transactions would be scrapped from April 1998. Tokyo’s offers were in line with revisions to its Insurance Business Law enacted in April 1996 and changes to the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law that are to take effect from next April.

On the domestic front, Japan is currently working to implement a wide range of financial system deregulation measures, dubbed the Japanese “Big Bang,” that would make Japan’s markets free, fair and global by 2001. The offers Friday echo these moves. “The submission of such an ambitious offer firmly demonstrates Japan’s willingness to make a positive contribution to … the successful conclusion of the negotiations within the agreed time frame,” Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka said in a statement July 11.

The WTO is aiming to conclude multilateral negotiations on further freeing financial services trade by Dec. 12, and talks are expected to intensify in the fall.

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