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European Council President Herman Van Rompuy agreed with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama during a summit Wednesday that Japan and the European Union will establish a “high-level group” to discus their economic relations, including the possibility of a free-trade agreement.

The two sides also agreed to promote cooperation in areas such as building peace in Afghanistan and preventing piracy off Somalia, Hatoyama said at a news conference in Tokyo with Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Hatoyama said Japan understands the EU’s frustration with nontariff barriers in Japan, such as the tight regulations on public procurement and product safety screening, which Brussels blames for distorting fair trade.

The working group could take six to 12 months to review the progress that Japan and the EU have made to ensure free and open trade, Hatoyama said, adding he believes the two sides will be able to secure an FTA in the future.

Van Rompuy called for strong “political will” to deepen the bilateral economic relationship, saying the high-level group must not work “in a bureaucratic way.”

During another news conference earlier in the day, Van Rompuy called for bilateral cooperation in fighting climate change.

He called for enhanced coordination between the EU and Japan, which he believes are “not only at the forefront in terms of emissions reduction” but also “committed for 80 percent of the fast-start finance for developing countries.”

The U.N. key climate conference in Copenhagen last December agreed on mobilizing $30 billion in aid for developing countries to help them grapple with the impact of climate change for 2010 to 2012.

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