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Business and academic circles Monday urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to step up efforts to strike free-trade agreements.

Members of the national council on promotion of economic integration to revitalize Japan handed over policy recommendations to Koizumi at his office.

The group was launched in March to urge the government to further promote FTAs with Japan’s trading partners in East Asia.

Key members include Hiroshi Okuda, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), Kakutaro Kitashiro, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai), and Motoshige Ito, a professor of economics at the University of Tokyo who initiated the project.

Although members are mostly business leaders and academics, some journalists, mayors and entertainers are also included.

Japan has an FTA with Singapore and is expected to ink one with Mexico probably in early September.

It is now in negotiations with Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand and plans to strike one with ASEAN by 2012.

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