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Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean has called on Japan to address food security beyond agricultural trade in its efforts to conclude a bilateral free-trade agreement with Australia.

Crean said Japan should cooperate with Australia from the perspective of food security, not just focusing on agriculture trade, which has become an obstacle for the two countries to conclude an FTA.

“Rather than just focus on problems with agricultural commodities, we’ve got to look at . . . food security and work at it together,” Crean said in a speech Monday at a symposium in Tokyo on enhancing the Japan-Australia relationship.

“There is fertile ground” for dealing with the issue, said Crean, who was in Japan for a meeting of Pacific Rim trade ministers in Sapporo last weekend. The Tokyo symposium was also attended by Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.

Japan and Australia have been in talks on a bilateral FTA, but negotiations are stalled because of Japan’s reluctance to open its agricultural sector to cheaper imports.

In bilateral talks Sunday on the sidelines of the trade ministers’ meeting, the two sides agreed they should continue their negotiations, with Okada saying a “realistic solution” should be found to what he called sensitive areas, including dairy products and sugar.

Crean expressed willingness to cooperate with Japan in areas of natural resources and climate change.

“Obviously, a free-trade agreement provides an opportunity for a resources and energy chapter. . . . Australia is not just a reliable supplier, it’s the most cost-efficient producer,” Crean said.

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