• Kyodo

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European Commission President Romano Prodi told a top Japanese business leader Monday he hopes to see more Japanese investment in the European Union, officials of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) said.

In his meeting here with Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of Nippon Keidanren, Japan’s top business lobby, Prodi said the economic zone centering on the EU is expected to have a population of 1 billion people in the long term, the officials said.

Okuda, also chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., was in Brussels on a visit to Europe to hold talks with various European government and business leaders.

According to the officials, Prodi told Okuda that Japanese companies may want to review their business strategies on the EU because it will have new member countries whose productivity levels are low despite low costs.

The EU has agreed to accept the admission of 10 new members, including Poland, in 2004. Two more countries, including Romania, are currently in membership negotiations with the EU, and their accession is set for 2007.

As a result, the EU’s market size will become larger, with the population growing to 500 million from the current 380 million.

Commenting on the euro, Prodi said the single currency’s credibility is rising as more central banks, including China’s, move to adopt it as a reserve currency comparable with the dollar.

This will help promote free-trade agreements between the EU and other peripheral countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Egypt and Morocco, which will eventually bring the size of the economic zone to 1 billion people, Prodi was quoted as saying.

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