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Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Shoichi Nakagawa will visit Thailand possibly on July 31 in a bid to strike a basic deal on a bilateral free-trade agreement in time for the end-of-July deadline set by the two countries, government sources said Friday.

The government is arranging the trip on Nakagawa’s way back from the World Trade Organization General Council meeting next week in Geneva. He may meet Thai Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak to put the finishing touches on negotiations.

If he strikes the basic accord, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra could visit Japan as early as August to formally forge a framework pact with his Tokyo counterpart, Junichiro Koizumi, they said.

Nobuhiko Sasaki, deputy director general at the Trade Policy Bureau in the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, and other government officials will visit Thailand starting Monday to lay the groundwork for ministerial talks, they added.

An FTA with Thailand would be the fifth for Japan, which already has FTAs with Singapore and Mexico and struck a framework agreement with the Philippines last November and with Malaysia in May.

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