About half of Japanese companies operating in other Asian economies expect positive effects from a possible free-trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, according to a survey released Thursday.

The survey, by the semigovernmental Japan External Trade Organization, says 50.2 percent of respondents expect positive effects from such an agreement.

The figure for firms operating in Thailand was 64.3 percent.

A shade more than 54 percent of companies operating in the Philippines responded similarly, followed by 54 percent in Vietnam and 52.2 percent in Indonesia.

Japan and the 10-member ASEAN agreed in November to start negotiations in 2003 to establish a regional FTA.

In contrast, 24.6 percent of respondents said they expect greater positive effects to result from an FTA between China and ASEAN.

China and ASEAN signed a legal framework in November for comprehensive economic cooperation aimed at deepening trade and investment links for the establishment of an FTA.

JETRO in November received survey responses from 1,519 Japanese manufacturers operating in six ASEAN member states — Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam — plus South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and India.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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