• Kyodo News


French Trade Minister Pierre Lellouche said in Tokyo that orders for Airbus aircraft by Japanese budget airlines have been welcome, but not enough to prove the market has fully opened up.

“It is good news . . . but I must say that the figures (for the orders) are still quite small when considering the principle of free trade,” Lellouche said Friday. “So far, it is probably only Israel that is taking such a closed stance similar to Japan in terms of aircraft.”

Boeing has long dominated Japan’s commercial jet market. What the European Union sees as the closed nature of the domestic market, especially in terms of nontariff barriers, has been a major sticking point for Japan and the European Union with regard to the launch of free negotiations.

“For the European Union and Japan to work together . . . it is appropriate to reduce barriers as much as possible,” Lellouche said, calling on Tokyo to make “a political gesture” that will signal a solution to rules on public procurement and other areas.

The minister made the remarks during a joint news conference with low-cost carrier A&F Aviation Co., which announced in February that it will lease 10 Airbus A320-200 aircraft over two years from this fall.

Skymark Airlines Inc., another budget airline, has also signed a deal with Airbus S.A.S. to buy six Airbus A380 superjumbo jetliners, including two on a provisional basis, the first such move by a Japanese carrier.

Japan is eager to agree with the European Union on launching free-trade negotiations at the upcoming Japan-EU summit in the spring, as it believes that the elimination of EU tariffs on cars and electric appliances will benefit Japanese companies.

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