Japan and Saudi Arabia on Thursday reaffirmed their bilateral efforts to facilitate investment in the Arab nation, which pledged to be a primary oil supplier to Japan and other world economies, officials of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry said.MITI Minister Kaoru Yosano met separately with Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Saudi minister of petroleum and mineral resources, and Abdul Wahhab bin Abdul Salam Attar, Saudi minister of planning, at a Tokyo hotel early in the day to discuss ways to build sustainable economic ties beyond oil trade.While explaining recent projections by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum that APEC economies will continue to increase their demand for petroleum from the Middle East, Yosano expressed a strong desire that Arabian Oil Co. be allowed to continue drilling oil off the Saudi coast beyond 2000.Al-Naimi replied that he hopes the negotiations concerning Japan’s biggest oil producer will reach an amicable conclusion, calling Arabian Oil a “bridge of mutual understanding” between the two countries.Yosano added that a successful outcome in the negotiations will have a positive impact on other aspects of bilateral ties, such as Japanese investment in Saudi Arabia and cultural and educational exchanges.Yosano said that although MITI is encouraging investment in Saudi Arabia, improvement of the investment environment is needed in areas such as taxation and the market recognition process.To promote mining of minerals other than petroleum, Al-Naimi asked Yosano to help develop a mining railway in his country. Yosano said Japan will continue to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in conducting a feasibility study on the project.

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