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Japan and Chile began five days of official talks Monday in Tokyo aimed at concluding a bilateral free-trade agreement by the end of the year.

Japan will be represented in the third round of talks by Seiichi Kondo, ambassador in charge of international trade and economy. The Chilean team will be led by Carlos Furche, vice minister for international economic relations at the Chilean Foreign Ministry.

Japan and Chile agreed last November to launch formal FTA talks after the two countries conducted a joint study for nearly one year on the feasibility of such an accord.

The first round was held in February in Tokyo and the second in Santiago in May.

This time around, they will discuss details of goods trade, services trade and investment, and the wording of the text of the FTA, the Foreign Ministry said.

Chile is the first South American country to hold FTA talks with Japan. Tokyo has FTAs with Singapore and Mexico, while Chile has FTAs with 36 economies, including the United States, Canada, the European Union, China and South Korea, according to Japanese officials.

Japanese trade ministry officials said Chile is an important provider of mineral resources, including copper and molybdenum, to Japan and an FTA would help Japan secure such raw materials.

In 2004, Chilean exports to Japan, mainly copper ore, salmon, trout and pork, totaled $3.7 billion, while imports from Japan, mostly automobiles and other manufactured goods, stood at $800 million.

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