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The Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) is ready to propose as early as next month that Japan and the United States sign an economic partnership agreement to abolish tariffs and boost free investment, sources said Saturday.

It will be the first time the country’s most powerful business lobby has proposed a bilateral EPA with the U.S.

The move comes as structural reform of Japan’s agricultural industry — a traditional obstacle to trade and investment pacts — has started, and Keidanren has judged the overall bilateral economic relationship as entering a new stage.

Keidanren plans to submit the proposal to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and relevant ministers next month, the sources said.

Fujio Mitarai, chairman of Canon Inc. and head of Keidanren, and other executives will visit the U.S. in January to press its case in meetings with senior U.S. government officials and businesspeople, the sources said.

The envisaged EPA would have a huge impact on trade policies under Abe, who has pledged to conclude EPAs and free-trade agreements with other countries to help with the steady growth of the economy, the sources said.

Keidanren will urge the governments of both Japan and the U.S. to unify rules for protection of intellectual property rights.

The lobby will call for easing and unifying environmental conservation standards, including those related to product recycling, and boosting visa-free exchanges.

Keidanren will propose that the two governments take into consideration the possible impact on Japan’s agricultural sector as well as education and the medical and aviation industries, which have all traditionally held strong views against free trade and deregulation.

The lobby will call for measures to ensure food security in Japan as the envisaged EPA could bring about increased dependence on U.S. food imports.

As for the U.S., Keidanren plans to call for restraint in levying antidumping duties on import products, abolition of state-level rules it says can hinder foreign investment and unification of state rules for business licenses and production authorization.

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