• Kyodo

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Japan and the European Union now aim to reach a broad agreement on a bilateral free trade pact in 2017, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said, dropping their plan to strike a deal before the end of this year.

“We’ve decided it can’t helped that the negotiations will carry over to next year,” Kishida told reporters Tuesday after speaking by phone with EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom. “We agreed to swiftly resume negotiations next month so that momentum won’t be lost.”

Kishida said at a news conference earlier Tuesday that the two sides are “making progress in many areas and are nearing a broad agreement” but added there are still points to be discussed.

The comments come after EU chief negotiator Mauro Petriccione said last Saturday the two sides will continue talks on a free trade treaty next year.

In the talks, launched in April 2013, Tokyo is seeking the removal of tariffs imposed by the bloc on Japanese cars and electronics, while Brussels wants Japan to eliminate duties on farm products such as pork and cheese.

Japan and the European Union, which will be reduced to 27 nations after Britain’s withdrawal is finalized, already missed the initial deadline for reaching a deal by the end of 2015.

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