Business

Iceland approaches Japan about FTAs with EFTA

Iceland would like to hold talks with Japan on a free-trade accord in the near future, the Icelandic foreign minister said Wednesday.

David Oddsson said that during his meeting Tuesday with Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, he expressed Iceland’s “will to take up free-trade discussions between Japan and EFTA (European Free Trade Association) countries” that “can be studied hopefully in the not too distant future.”

EFTA comprises Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein and has close relations with the 15-member European Union through the European Economic Area pact. The EFTA nations also have free-trade agreements with several East European and Mediterranean countries, as well as Mexico.

Oddsson, who will leave Japan on Friday after promoting bilateral business ties here, said Machimura considered his proposal but noted Japan is currently very busy working out other FTAs.

Should a free-trade agreement materialize between the two nations, Iceland has much to offer in fisheries and pharmaceuticals, the former prime minister of Iceland said, adding he hopes FTA discussions between Japan and EFTA states can take place in one or two years’ time.

Oddsson dismissed the idea that Iceland’s fishing sector could threaten Japan’s industry, saying: “I don’t see so many obstacles there. Japan has a free-trade agreement with Mexico, where such questions have arisen and they have found solutions.”

The two ministers also discussed the possibility of double-taxation and air-traffic agreements between Tokyo and Reykjavik to create a better environment for Icelandic businesses.

“It is important to open the market and make clear rules . . . to utilize (business) possibilities for both countries,” he said, adding he felt Japan appeared to consider his concerns in a “positive” way.

Touching on diplomatic issues, Oddsson said he and Machimura agreed to cooperate to see the expansion of the U.N. Security Council, with Iceland reiterating its support for Japan’s aspirations to have a permanent seat on the council, even though Tokyo has run into difficulties.

Iceland is a cosponsor of a resolution on U.N. reform submitted to the U.N. General Assembly by Japan, Brazil, Germany and India.

The so-called Group of Four submitted the resolution in a bid for permanent seats on the top U.N. body.