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The Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), the nation’s most influential business lobby, plans to propose that Japan and the European Union conclude a broad-based free-trade agreement to counter growing protectionist pressures in industrialized economies amid the global recession, federation sources have said.

The proposal will likely be released next week and presented to European leaders when Fujio Mitarai, chairman of Nippon Keidanren, visits Europe in late April, they said.

Nippon Keidanren believes it is necessary for Japan and the EU to jointly work out regulatory reforms in a variety of fields, including capital markets, services, government procurement and antitrust policies.

The federation plans to specifically recommend standardization of specifications for biometrics authentication, shortening the process for examining newly developed drugs and medical equipment in Japan, and simplifying and computerizing government procurement procedures, the sources said.

The federation will also call for Japanese and European authorities to hold talks before applying monetary and other penalties in antitrust cases and to mutually authorize patents.

Nippon Keidanren will demand that Japan and the European Union set up a framework by the end of 2010 for the promotion of talks between Japanese and European leaders to conclude an FTA, the sources added.

The imminent proposal reflects growing concern among Japanese automobile, electronics, steel and other manufacturers that they will fall behind South Korean rivals in trade with Europe in light of Seoul’s stepped-up FTA talks with the EU.

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