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The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations is Japan’s third largest-trading partner after China and the United States. In 2006, trade between Japan and ASEAN totaled ¥18 trillion. Japan and ASEAN have concluded an economic partnership agreement covering the goods trade, services and investment. It is Japan’s first EPA with a regional bloc.

ASEAN countries may not be totally satisfied with the EPA because Japan is not obliged to repeal tariffs on key farm products such as rice, beef and dairy products. The movement of people is not covered, either. Even so, the agreement, expected to take effect in the fall 2008 after it is signed, will go a long way toward strengthening economic relations between Japan and ASEAN.

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