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Farm minister Tsutomu Takebe said Monday the country should not exclude the farm and fisheries sector when it negotiates free-trade agreements, ministry officials said.

The head of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said Japan should carry out such negotiations with a view toward an overall benefit for the nation, they said.

Takebe made the remarks at a ministry meeting with the nation’s biggest business lobby, the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), held in the morning to exchange views on agriculture, forestry and fisheries policies.

The policies discussed included those on FTAs, agriculture-related trade liberalization talks at the World Trade Organization and a revitalization plan for the domestic farm sector compiled by the ministry, the officials said.

Takebe’s remarks came ahead of a two-day joint study meeting starting Tuesday between Japan and South Korea on a possible free-trade pact.

One of the focal points in the study meeting will be whether Japan can remove import tariffs on fisheries products under an FTA with South Korea.

The Japanese fisheries sector is concerned about strong competition from low-priced South Korean products, including seaweed.

Nippon Keidanren leaders meanwhile urged the ministry to take steps to encourage young people to study agricultural businesses, saying Japan is the only developed nation that imports considerably more farm products than it exports, the ministry officials said.

The business leaders also urged the ministry to improve agricultural productivity by encouraging the creation of corporations.

On the safety of food, they urged the ministry to compile a “positive list” for food additives that can be used, in addition to the current list showing additives that are not allowed, the officials said.

The ministry and Nippon Keidanren agreed to continue holding similar meetings on farm and fisheries matters, they said.

Nippon Keidanren was created in late May through the merger of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren) and the Japan Federation of Employers Associations (Nikkeiren).

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