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Japan and Brunei kicked off their first round of official negotiations Monday in Tokyo aimed at sealing a bilateral free-trade agreement, with Tokyo aiming during the five-day run to win tariff cuts on its industrial goods exports and a stable supply of natural resources from the Southeast Asian country.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka headed the Japanese delegation, while Lim Jock Hoi, permanent secretary at Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, represented the resource-rich kingdom in the talks.

Japan is Brunei’s largest trading partner and imports resources such as crude oil and liquefied natural gas. About 27 percent of Brunei’s crude oil shipments go to Japan, as do some 90 percent of the country’s LNG exports.

Brunei is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has been in formal FTA talks with Japan since April 2005. The 10-member regional body and Japan are striving to complete negotiations by next March.

With regard to ASEAN members, Japan has an FTA with Singapore and another one with Malaysia will enter into force July 13. Tokyo has also struck basic accords for similar undertakings with the Philippines and Thailand and has been in official negotiations with Indonesia. Japan has also held joint FTA study sessions with Vietnam since February to pave the way for official negotiations.

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