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Japan is beginning to realize the importance of adopting a coordinated trade policy to gain the upper hand in negotiations on free-trade agreements with other Asian countries in 2004.

Japan is lagging behind other developed countries as it has so far only concluded an FTA with Singapore, in January 2002. The start of the first round of talks on an FTA with South Korea on Monday, however, prepares Japan for a new “FTA era” with the launching of formal negotiations with Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia early next year.

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