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Japan, EU chair Luxembourg agree on efforts to step up free trade talks

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Luxembourg counterpart Xavier Bettel agreed in their talks to seek an early conclusion of a free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union, a senior Japanese official said.

Luxembourg currently holds the rotating presidency of the 28-nation EU, which is negotiating an economic partnership agreement with Japan. The comprehensive deal, once put into force, would cover about 30 percent of the world economy.

Abe also affirmed closer cooperation between Japan and the EU to reach agreement “as soon as possible” when he met Dutch Prime Minister Mark Ruttee on Nov. 10 in Tokyo. The Netherlands is assuming the EU presidency in the first half of 2016.

The Japanese prime minister, who arrived in Luxembourg on Tuesday, also offered “close collaboration with Luxembourg” in addressing measures against violent extremism in light of last month’s terror attacks in Paris, according to the Japanese official. Bettel noted the increasing need for cross-border cooperation and intelligence sharing, the official said.

At a news conference after his meeting with Bettel, Abe said anti-terrorism measures will be an important issue at a summit of major industrial nations in May in Japan.

“We will do everything in our power to contain international terrorism through cooperation with (other members of) the international community,” he said. “Efforts will be made to prevent acts of terrorism by, for instance, empowering each country’s law-enforcement authorities and taking steps to regulate flows of funds.”

Abe and Bettel also discussed the need to revamp the U.N. Security Council, an issue currently being addressed by an intergovernmental panel chaired by Luxembourg’s U.N. Ambassador Sylvie Lucas.

The Japanese and Luxembourgian leaders agreed that small countries’ voices should be heard in the top decision-making body of the global organization, the Japanese official said.

Bettel welcomed Japan’s bid to seek permanent membership in the Security Council, according to the Japanese official. Japan is seeking a permanent seat along with Brazil, Germany and India, its partners in the Group of Four caucus for the U.N. reform.

Abe traveled to Luxembourg from Paris, where he attended a U.N. climate summit and held talks with President Francois Hollande and other world leaders on Monday.

Abe also reaffirmed cooperation with Bettel to achieve success at the Paris climate conference.

Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit Luxembourg since Junichiro Koizumi in 2005.