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Trade chief Takeo Hiranuma will meet Thursday in Shanghai with Taiwan Economic Affairs Minister Lin Hsin-yi to discuss bilateral economic relations, a top Japanese trade official said Monday.

Hiranuma and Lin will get together on the sidelines of a two-day meeting of trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum that will start Wednesday in Shanghai, said Katsusada Hirose, vice minister of economy, trade and industry.

The two sides will not touch on any political issues and there is no specific agenda for the meeting, ministry officials said.

While Tokyo has not refused to engage in such bilateral meetings during APEC gatherings, it is anxious to avoid any moves that could be interpreted by China as recognizing Taiwan as an independent state, they said.

Japan will not concern itself with the recent suggestion by Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian that he hopes to meet Chinese President Jiang Zemin at the APEC summit scheduled for October in Shanghai, the officials said.

Chen, who made the APEC bid even though Beijing has already ruled out his participation in the summit, said it has been agreed in the past that Taiwan can only send economic leaders to APEC meetings.

China hosts this year’s series of APEC meetings for the first time since joining the group in 1991 along with Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Formed in 1989, APEC is made up of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

Getting set for WTO

Trade chief Takeo Hiranuma and his Australian counterpart, Mark Vaile, agreed Monday to join efforts to launch a new round of world trade talks in November in Qatar, Japanese officials said.

They also agreed to enhance bilateral economic relations in broad areas, including services trade and information technology, in line with private-sector studies compiled in late April, the officials said.

Vaile stopped over in Tokyo on his way to Shanghai for a two-day meeting starting Wednesday with trade ministers of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. They will discuss pushing for a November launch of new trade talks under the World Trade Organization.

In a meeting last fall, Hiranuma and Vaile agreed to let private-sector groups study how to enhance the bilateral economic relationship. The groups concluded in late April that seeking a bilateral free-trade agreement at this time would be difficult.

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