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Japan and Thailand will launch an expanded working group meeting later this month to conclude an economic partnership accord that includes a bilateral free-trade agreement, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Tuesday.

The July 22-24 meeting of the task force will include experts from the farm sector, a controversial sector in the bilateral efforts to seek an FTA, ministry officials said.

The task force is a followup to a working group consisting of officials from the governments of the two countries, members of the private sector and academics that concluded its preliminary study in May.

The task force will brief Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who are scheduled to meet in October and December, Kawaguchi said.

Thailand wants to ink the FTA with Japan by the end of this year, but Japan is divided over how to treat its agriculture sector.

The Foreign Ministry favors an early start to full-scale FTA talks, but the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is concerned about an expected influx of farm products from Thailand.

Thailand is a major exporter of rice and other agricultural products and is said to be seeking to export more chicken, tapioca, sugar and other produce.

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