Japan and Turkey began their first round of negotiations Monday for a bilateral free trade agreement, aiming to further strengthen economic cooperation.
The meeting, to be held over two days in Tokyo, follows an agreement reached in January between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now Turkey’s president, to launch FTA negotiations this year.
Japan wants to quickly seal an agreement with Turkey after the country signed a free trade deal with South Korea last year that could undermine Japan’s competitiveness in exports.
Turkey, with a domestic market of more than 75 million people, has enjoyed rapid economic growth in recent years. With its geographical proximity to Europe, Africa and other Middle Eastern countries, it has attracted companies as a hub that connects businesses with the neighboring nations.
According to a report of the joint study group on the bilateral FTA, Japan’s main exports to Turkey are industrial products, such as automobiles, vessels and construction machines. Tokyo is particularly interested in the abolition of Turkish tariffs on automobiles and auto parts.
Turkey mainly exports agricultural goods and textile products, such as clothing and carpets, to Japan. The issue of market access for Japanese farm goods could be a point of contention as it is a politically sensitive area for Tokyo, a Foreign Ministry official said.
During the first round of negotiations, the two sides plan to mainly discuss ways to promote their talks down the road. They are expected to enter full negotiations in the next round.
In 2012, Japan’s imports from Turkey totaled around $575 million, while Turkish imports of Japanese goods stood at $3.6 billion for the same period, according to the report.
Tokyo and Ankara have also boosted bilateral nuclear cooperation recently.
In April this year, the Diet approved an agreement to enable nuclear plant exports to Turkey.