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The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry proposed Thursday that Japan boost its personnel exchanges and financial cooperation with other Asian economies to strengthen the country’s global competitiveness.

In an interim report on METI’s new economic growth strategy discussed Thursday by its advisory panel, the Industrial Structure Council, the ministry called for a fund to promote exchanges of promising students and researchers as well as financial schemes to encourage mutual investment in Asia.

METI plans to publish the growth strategy in May. It is aimed at enhancing Japan’s global competitiveness and stimulating regional economies despite aging residents.

After discussions by the council, the ministry will present the report next week to the governmental Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, which is headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The report’s recommendations will then be incorporated into future policy, METI officials said.

The report argues that ensuring a dynamic flow of manpower, goods and capital between Japan and other Asian economies is key to economic development in the entire region.

Japan should increase opportunities for Asian students to find jobs at Japanese firms after graduation, the paper says.

If measures called for under the growth strategy are carried out, Japan could see real growth in gross domestic product of 2.2 per year and nominal growth of 3.6 percent, on average, between fiscal 2004 and 2015, according to the paper.

If none of the measures under the growth strategy is taken, real GDP growth is forecast at 0.8 percent, with a nominal figure of 2.2 percent for the same period.