• Kyodo

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Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano said Friday he will visit Cambodia to attend events involving the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other key regional partners next week.

Edano said he hopes to see progress on starting negotiations for a regionwide free-trade agreement early next year, referring to the ASEAN-led trade initiative called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

“All of the countries (gathering for the events) are important for Japan’s trade policies, and I expect to reinforce cooperation with them,” Edano added.

Economic ministers from ASEAN and its six regional partners agreed in August to launch the negotiations, which could result in the creation of a huge integrated market comprising more than 3 billion people.

The free-trade talks involving the 10 ASEAN members plus Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand is designed to free up trade in goods, services and investment.

Edano, meanwhile, said that Japan, China and South Korea are looking in to whether their economic and trade ministers can meet on the sidelines of a series of ASEAN-related meetings.

Sources earlier said the three countries are expected to hold a ministerial-level meeting to declare the launch of talks for a trilateral free-trade agreement.

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