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Staff writer

Asian and European economic ministers will agree at a meeting in Japan this month to set up a governmental group to address obstacles to the flow of investments between the two regions, officials at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry said Sept. 3.

Trade and investment will be one of six major topics on the agenda at the first economic ministers’ meeting of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the officials said, requesting anonymity. The ministerial talks are scheduled for Sept. 27-28 in Makuhari, Chiba Prefecture.

The ASEM was inaugurated in Bangkok in March last year at a summit of top leaders from 25 Asian and European countries to strengthen what is widely perceived to be the weakest link in the triangle of the world’s three economic centers — East Asia, Western Europe and the United States. The 10 Asian members are Japan, China and South Korea plus the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, except Laos and Myanmar, which were admitted to ASEAN in July.

Thailand will submit an investment promotion action plan to the meeting concerning investment between Asian countries and investment between Europe and Asia, the officials said. The ASEM ministers are expected to endorse the plan and also to agree on establishing an Investment Experts Group to discuss investment-related issues, including barriers to the flow of investments between Asia and Europe, the officials said. Only 2.8 percent of European foreign direct investment in 1993 went to Asia.

The proposed group will consider private-sector requests in discussing specific issues and also monitor the implementation of the investment action plan, the officials said. The meeting is also expected to discuss and endorse implementation of the initial trade facilitation action plan, which will be concerned among other things with the standardization of trade regulations, the officials said.

According to the officials, the five other major topics on the agenda are the economic relationship between Asia and Europe; the region’s interaction with business; issues related to the World Trade Organization; infrastructure development; and sustainable economic growth, including technological cooperation, energy and environmental issues. The ministers will discuss principles, policy objectives, scopes and mechanisms of ASEM economic cooperation based on a discussion paper on ASEM economic cooperation as well as on a report on the economic synergy between Asia and Europe being circulated among them, the officials said.

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