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Japan and France will launch full-scale negotiations as early as the fall on the conclusion of a social welfare pact, government sources said Friday.

The countries have already held several rounds of preparatory talks on the agreement, which would seek to prevent the double collection of public pension premiums from Japanese nationals working in France and French nationals working in Japan, the sources said.

The pact promises to be a significant boon for workers in both countries, especially corporate employees.

Draft pacts will be exchanged in the first round of full-scale negotiations, expected to be held as early as September.

Full negotiations are expected to take at least one to two years and the pact will have to be ratified by the legislative bodies of both countries before going into force.

Even if everything goes relatively smoothly, Japanese and French nationals will have to wait until at least 2004 before reaping the benefits.

Under the agreement, workers would no longer have to make double pension-premium payments because they would be subject to either Japanese or French mandatory public pension plans.

Employers also stand to benefit from the proposed agreement.

Under the Japanese public pension system, the premium payment burden for corporate workers is, in principle, equally shared by employees and employers. But in the case of employees working abroad, their pension premiums are often paid completely by the employers.

“There has been a strong desire in Japanese and French business circles for an early conclusion of a social welfare pact between the two countries,” one government source said.

France is expected to be the fourth country to enter a social welfare pact of this kind with Japan. Similar agreements were signed with Germany in 1998 and Britain in 2000, while an agreement with the United States may be reached by the end of the year.

Japan and the U.S. have already held two rounds of full-scale negotiations and completed about 70 percent of the bilateral pact, another government source said.

The countries plan to hold the third round of full-scale negotiations in August. But it is still uncertain whether a final agreement will be reached then and at least one more round of negotiations may be necessary, the sources said.

If a final agreement is reached on the Japan-U.S. pact by the end of this year, it will likely be submitted for ratification to the following ordinary Diet session, which convenes in January.

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