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Trade minister Takeo Hiranuma on Monday said Japan should spearhead efforts to form an East Asia economic zone that could embrace India and incorporate two-thirds of the world’s population.

“A vision to create a large economic zone for common prosperity is essential,” Hiranuma, minister of economy, trade and industry, told a gathering hosted by information publisher Naigai News Ltd.

He was referring to a proposal floated in Singapore in January by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

“(Chinese) President Jiang Zemin decided to form a free trade area with ASEAN in 10 years, Prime Minister Koizumi went a step ahead by calling for an East Asia zone and I think this could also include India,” he added.

In January in Singapore, where Koizumi signed Japan’s first ever FTA, the prime minister called for the creation of an East Asian community with Japan, ASEAN, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand as core members.

He did not include India in this bracket.

Koizumi’s vision also sees Asian countries joining the global trend toward forging bilateral and regional FTAs and vying with regional pacts and powers such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Union, Hiranuma said.

“In this East Asia region, we have a huge population of 3 billion and a gross domestic product of $7 trillion, and including India, a population of 4 billion, which is two-thirds of the world’s population of 6 billion,” he said.

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