Trade chief Takeo Hiranuma and his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Jin Shik, agreed Monday to continue cooperating on bringing about an early start to government-level talks on a free-trade agreement.

The ministers agreed during a meeting at Hiranuma’s office their countries should work closely to launch the full-fledged FTA talks at an early date, possibly by the end of this year, a government official said.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President Roh Moo Hyun agreed during a summit Saturday their nations should boost economic and cultural ties, including a plan to launch the FTA talks at an early stage.

But the two leaders did not say when the FTA negotiations would begin.

Yoon meanwhile said Japan should boost investment in South Korea, and Hiranuma agreed with the idea, according to the official.

Yoon accompanied Roh on a four-day state visit to Japan.

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