Japan and Indonesia agreed on June 1 to begin negotiations over a free trade agreement (FTA) as early as next month, as Tokyo tries to secure regional clout through trade deals in Southeast Asia.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is on a four-day visit to Japan, reached the understanding on the FTA talks in a meeting with Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, an official said. A joint study group by Japan and Indonesia set up in April proposed that they pursue talks on an FTA. Japan agreed last week on an FTA with Malaysia, its third free trade deal after those with Singapore and Mexico. Japan has also opened FTA talks with the Philippines and Thailand.
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said Japan is preparing a major fund that would negotiate FTAs with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations and aid its less developed members in a bid in part to ward off growing Chinese influence in the region.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2005