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NEW YORK (Kyodo) Japan and the United States should deepen business and economic ties with the aim of eventually signing a bilateral economic partnership agreement, Fujio Mitarai, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), said Monday.

The two countries maintain good relations, but this does not mean they can relax their efforts, the leader of Japan’s most influential business lobby said in a speech in New York.

They should continue building up business relations in various ways, including harmonizing systems for intellectual property rights protection, ensuring smooth cross-border movements of people and collaborating in developing environmental technologies, so they can sign a comprehensive bilateral EPA, Mitarai said.

The countries also should jointly exercise leadership in ensuring peace and sustainable economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

While saying the world economy is emerging from the worst of the financial crisis, Mitarai expressed concern about looming protectionism.

He welcomed President Barack Obama’s assurance that the United States will abide by World Trade Organization rules.

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