Japan should make efforts to introduce foreign workers to achieve economic growth in line with increasing globalization, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in an annual report released Tuesday.

It is important for Japan to introduce talented foreign workers in the fields of management, research and technology, the 2003 White Paper on International Trade says.

It is the first time for the annual METI report to mention the need for foreign workers.

Japan lags far behind other nations in terms of employing foreigners. In 1999, fewer than 1 percent of workers were foreign, compared with 18 percent in Switzerland, nearly 12 percent in the United States and 10 percent in Austria.

The paper calls for removing various hurdles to foreign workers, including making it easier for them to live and work here.

The paper also proposes creating an East Asian business zone to enhance economic ties among economies in the region.

It says it is necessary for Japan to use various frameworks, including bilateral free-trade agreements, the World Trade Organization and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, to boost economic cooperation with other parts of East Asia — a proposal METI has reiterated for the past several years.

Japan should also use its official development assistance from a strategic point of view as a policy tool to enhance economic ties in the region, it says.

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