• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President-elect Emmanuel Macron agreed in telephone talks Tuesday to confront protectionism and work together toward an early broad agreement in free trade negotiations between Japan and the European Union.

Abe congratulated Macron on his victory in Sunday’s presidential runoff vote, calling it a symbolic win for open societies and free trade, and a mark of unwavering confidence in the European Union, according to the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

Macron told Abe he values relations with Japan and wants to strengthen them further, the ministry said.

In the runoff vote, centrist, pro-EU Macron soundly defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who had promised to hold a referendum on France’s membership of the bloc.

According to the ministry, Abe told Macron in their roughly 15-minute conversation that Japan supports a strong Europe and he expects Macron to show strong leadership in taking the European Union forward.

Abe and Macron also confirmed that they will expand cooperation between Japan and France in areas concerning peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, including efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development, the ministry said.

They are expected to arrange talks on the sidelines of the Group of Seven countries’ summit in Italy later this month.

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