• Kyodo

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When their leaders meet on the sidelines of the two-day Group of Seven summit that starts Thursday, Japan, the European Union and four EU countries will express their intention to conclude years of free trade talks by the end of the year, according to sources.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, the sources said Tuesday.

They will issue a statement at the end of the gathering, which will be held either Thursday or Friday, to “reaffirm (their) strong commitment to reach an agreement in principle as early as possible in 2016,” according to a draft statement obtained by Kyodo News.

“The negotiators intensify their efforts in the coming months to move forward with the negotiations toward a comprehensive and high-level agreement which further consolidates our solid trade and economic partnership,” the draft says.

Japan and the European Union started negotiating a free trade agreement in April 2013, with Tokyo seeking to eliminate EU tariffs on Japanese automobiles and electronic appliances and the European Union seeking expanded access to Japan’s food and railway markets, among other sectors.

At a meeting earlier this month, Abe, Tusk and Juncker agreed to step up negotiations to reach agreement within this year.

Promoting free trade initiatives is a major issue to be discussed at the Ise-Shima summit in Mie Prefecture.

At the end of the summit, the G-7 leaders are expected to call for an early agreement on bilateral trade pacts currently under negotiation between the European Union and Japan, and the 28-member bloc and the United States.

Early political decisions may be needed to strike a deal by the end of this year, as major elections scheduled next year in France and Germany could leave little room for the governments of those two countries to make tough decisions.

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