Japan, Brunei Reach Free Trade Accord

Some 70% of Japan's liquid natural gas imports come from Brunei.

Japan said Dec. 21 it had agreed in principle on a free trade accord with major gas producer Brunei that will help Asia's largest economy in its quest for stable energy supplies. "We aim to finalize further the details by continuing to hold talks with the Brunei side and sign the accord as soon as possible," a foreign ministry official said.

The two countries hope to put the agreement into effect during the first half of next year, local media said, adding that the move would accelerate similar talks between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Thursday's accord is part of resource-poor Japan's effort to secure stable energy supply from Brunei. Some 70% of Japan's total imports of liquid natural gas come from the wealthy sultanate. Nearly all of Japan's imports from Brunei are natural gas and oil, while some 70% of Japan's exports to Brunei are cars or auto parts.

Brunei is the eighth country with which Japan has reached a free trade accord or agreed in principle to do so. The Japan-Brunei accord came after six months of talks, the shortest term for free trade talks so far held by Japan. The seven other countries are Chile, Indonesia, Mexico, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Japan has increasingly sought free-trade deals with key economic partners amid the collapse of global liberalization talks.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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