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SYDNEY (Kyodo) Japan and Australia kicked off negotiations Monday for a free-trade agreement.

A dozen officials from each side are attending the two-day talks in Canberra that are expected to set the framework and structure of future negotiations, rather than discuss particular items.

Agricultural issues are expected to be a major stumbling block because of Japan’s high tariffs on imported farm produce and generous subsidies to farmers.

Despite such barriers, Canberra has insisted that all sectors remain on the table for negotiation.

Besides farm products, Australia aims to expand its energy and resource exports to Japan.

If a free-trade deal is struck, it would be the first for Japan with a major exporter of farm products.

A senior Australian official involved in the negotiations told Japanese reporters earlier this month that concerns about the impact on Japanese farmers are “exaggerated.”

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