• Kyodo

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Japan and Singapore on Thursday marked the completion of a joint study on commencing bilateral free trade by signing a report drawn up for their leaders and popping open a bottle of champagne.

The report, compiled by a team of senior government officials, academics and private-sector representatives from Japan and Singapore, will be presented to the leaders today. It will also be made public simultaneously the same day in both countries at 3 p.m., Singapore time.

Members of the team have been in Singapore since Wednesday to finalize the report, which was put together over five separate meetings since March.

The report was initiated in December 1999 after Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi decided to launch a study on free trade between the two countries.

Members of the team “have found their participation in this endeavor enriching and fruitful,” said a statement issued after the signing ceremony.

“The commitment and goodwill demonstrated during the study reflect the desire of both sides to strengthen Japanese-Singaporean relations,” it said.

Goh is expected to visit Japan next month for a summit with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and to jointly announce the launch of negotiations over a free trade agreement.

Goh is likely to make the visit either on his way to the Asia-Europe leaders’ summit to be held in Seoul from Oct. 20 to Oct. 21 or as he returns home from the meeting, sources said.

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