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Japan vows to boost exports to China

By Bao Chang  (China Daily)

13:33, May 15, 2012

Taking advantage of an expected China-Japan-South Korea free trade agreement, Tokyo has vowed to boost exports to China, which slowed last year after a nuclear accident in Japan.

"We will use any preferential policies that help to spur Japanese agricultural, forestry and seafood exports to China, although the outcome of the FTA negotiations remains uncertain," Japan's ambassador to China, Uichiro Niwa, told China Daily.

On Sunday, the three countries agreed to start talks about an FTA this year during a trilateral summit chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao.

Niwa said once the negotiations start, Japan will consider opening industries such as agriculture based on the basic policy on comprehensive economic partnership released by the Japanese government in November 2010, aiming at reaching a high-level FTA.

Japan's exports to China dropped last year due to China's import restrictions on Japanese products following the country's earthquake disaster and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station crisis, according to Niwa.

Data from the General Administration of Customs show China's agricultural imports from Japan fell 41.4 percent to $350 million in 2011.

The China Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs and Native Produce said the Japanese radiation crisis has apparently influenced the views of Chinese importers and consumers.

"Japan would like to discuss with the Chinese government the relaxation of China's import restrictions to introduce more high-end Japanese food and agricultural products to Chinese consumers," Niwa said.

China, the world's biggest exporter and second-largest importer, is planning to buy more from its trade partners in an effort to boost domestic consumption.

The State Council, or cabinet, said in March that China will cut import duties on consumer goods, certain energy products and raw materials to drive purchases.

Beijing will encourage importers to buy more from countries that have free trade agreements with China, such as Pakistan, New Zealand, and member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

"Considering the agriculture industry's development in Japan, the country's high-end products are likely to garner a big market share in China after the trilateral FTA takes effect," said Zeng Yanchu, professor at the School of Agricultural Economics & Rural Development of Renmin University of China.

China National Agricultural Development Group Co Ltd is building a Sino-Japanese high-end agricultural products trading center with Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

After its expected opening in the first half of this year, the center will become a major trading platform for Japanese high-end agricultural products tailored to the Chinese market.

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