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Japan and the United States formally signed an agreement on competition policy Thursday to enhance cooperation against cross-border anticompetitive activities in both countries, Japanese government officials said.

The pact, signed in Washington, is the first bilateral agreement of its kind that Japan has struck with another country.

Similar agreements have been made between the U.S. and the European Union, Canada and Israel, among others, as well as between countries that include Germany, France, Australia and New Zealand.

The Japan-U.S. pact is meant to facilitate the efficient enforcement of the respective nations’ competition laws as well as to enhance cooperation between the Japanese and U.S. trade watchdogs in ensuring fair competition and thereby sustaining sound bilateral trade relations, they said.

The two nations, however, appear to have different expectations of the new pact.

While the Japanese side seems to hope it will reduce Washington’s increasingly frequent application of its Antimonopoly Law beyond its own borders, the U.S. is believed to be preparing to use the new deal to pry open Japan’s markets for photo film and flat glass.

The Japan-U.S. pact, based on an agreement adopted by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and U.S. President Bill Clinton during their meeting in May in Washington, calls for greater cooperation between the two authorities.

Specifically, it stipulates that the two authorities should inform each other of enforcement activities that they take and are considered to be important to the other party, provide support to each other and coordinate activities with regard to related matters.

It will also allow either country to ask the other to begin investigations into suspected antitrust practices. The accord is also expected to increase information-sharing between the Japanese and U.S. antitrust watchdogs.

FTC officials said Japan is considering signing a bilateral agreement with other countries, in accordance with the recommendations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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