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Private-sector members of a key government economic panel proposed Tuesday that Japan introduce numerical goals when promoting free-trade agreements.

During a meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, the four members called on Japan to increase trade with its FTA partners to more than 25 percent of Japan’s total trade value in five years and eventually raise that percentage to over 50 percent.

Japan currently has FTAs with Singapore and Mexico. But the combined value of trade with these two countries accounts for just 3 percent of Japan’s total trade.

The four members — Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Hiroshi Okuda, Ushio Inc. Chairman Jiro Ushio, Osaka University professor Masaaki Homma, and University of Tokyo professor Hiroshi Yoshikawa — stressed the need for Japan to “expand high-quality trade agreements” with economies in East Asia, including members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and South Korea.

They also suggested Tokyo consider concluding FTAs with developed countries and strategically use its official development assistance for such purposes as personnel training and language education.

The four panel members also suggested that the government promote exports of domestic farm products by setting numerical goals and boost acceptance of foreign laborers who meet certain conditions — such as Japanese-language ability, given the rapid aging of the population.

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