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China and Japan agree to start talks on free trade pact

(Shanghai Daily)

10:52, December 26, 2011

CHINA and Japan have agreed to start formal talks early next year on a free trade pact that would also include South Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said yesterday after talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that showed the deepening bonds between Asia's two biggest economies.

Japan also said it was looking to buy Chinese treasury debt, and the two governments agreed to enhance financial cooperation.

"On a free trade agreement among Japan, China and South Korea, we've made a substantial progress for an early start of negotiations," Noda said after his meeting with Wen.

China's central bank, the People's Bank of China, said on its website that the two leaders agreed to strengthen bilateral financial market cooperation and "encourage the use of the yuan and Japanese yen in international trade transactions between the two countries."

The trade talks announcement builds on an agreement between the three countries last month to also seek a trilateral investment treaty and finish studies on the proposed free trade agreement by the end of December so they could start formal negotiations on the trade pact.

"China is willing to closely coordinate with Japan to promote our two countries' monetary and financial development, and to accelerate progress of the China-Japan-Republic of Korea free-trade zone and East Asian financial cooperation," Wen told Noda, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry's official website.

But the regional trade negotiations could compete for attention with Washington's push for a trans-Pacific partnership, after Japan said last month it wants to join in the talks over the United States proposal.

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