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The Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) proposed Friday the creation of a strategy panel headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and a special ministerial post to promote economic collaboration with East Asian economies, including the conclusion of free-trade agreements.

Nippon Keidanren, the nation’s most powerful business lobby, said Japan needs to forge economic pacts with other Asian nations, including FTAs, as soon as possible.

Japan recently launched FTA negotiations with other Asian countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea.

Nippon Keidanren said the prime minister should take the initiative in these talks because there was a lot of confusion and disarray among ministries and agencies during the recent FTA talks with Mexico.

The business lobby said the proposed panel should last about two years, meaning that FTA deals between Japan and other Asian economies could hopefully be struck by the end of 2005.

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