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Japan said Saturday it will contribute $70 million toward the capital replenishment of a fund run by the Inter-American Development Bank for nurturing small and midsize companies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Financial leaders from the IDB’s 47 member nations approved the $501.82 million replenishment of the Multilateral Investment Fund at a meeting before the annual three-day IDB meeting that begins here Sunday.

The Finance Ministry said a total of 38 IDB member countries agreed to contribute, with the United States shouldering $150 million, Spain $70 million, South Korea $50 million and Canada $30 million. South Korea joined the IDB last month.

The Washington-based IDB has dubbed the replenishment as the launch of the second MIF, or MIF II.

The size of the MIF, created in 1993, is currently $1.3 billion but is expected to run out in 2007. As of the end of 2004, the IDB had committed a total of $950 million to 661 projects. MIF II is targeted to cover the period between 2007 and 2015.

Japan and the United States originally contributed $500 million each to the fund.

According to IDB officials, about 80 percent of MIF funding is channeled to nongovernmental organizations and small and midsize companies in Latin America and the Caribbean. The remainder goes to the region’s governments to improve investment climates.

Chile requests FTA

GINOWAN, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Chilean Finance Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre proposed to Japan on Saturday that their countries conclude a free trade agreement to spur bilateral trade and investment, an official of the Japanese Finance Ministry said.

Eyzaguirre made the proposal during a meeting here with his Japanese counterpart Sadakazu Tanigaki.

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