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The government’s Japan Investment Council approved measures Tuesday aimed at promoting foreign direct investment through such means as assisting local authorities’ efforts to attract foreign capital, government sources said.

The new program calls for setting up special districts where foreign companies would be exempt from regulations governing firms in other regions, and introducing new steps to promote merger and acquisition deals across borders.

Other proposals would create better living conditions for foreigners and have Cabinet ministers and the heads of local governments make direct appeals to foreign companies.

The government’s current target calls for doubling the outstanding balance of foreign direct investment to a level equivalent to 5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product between this year and the end of 2010.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who chairs the council, said more coordinated and stepped-up action is needed to get foreign companies to recognize the appeal of Japan as an investment destination.

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