As Tokyo seeks stable energy supplies from the oil- and gas-rich country, Japan and Brunei on June 18 signed a bilateral free trade agreement The agreement will lower trade barriers, enhance economic cooperation between the two countries and boost Japanese investment in Brunei.
Japan is Brunei's biggest export destination, shipping some 270 billion yen (US$2.2 billion) in 2006, mainly oil and natural gas, while Japan exported machinery and other goods worth 12 billion yen to Brunei.
Japan has been increasingly pursuing free trade pacts to secure access to raw materials and markets for its exports amid the collapse of global trade talks. Japan's first free trade agreement, with Singapore, took effect in late 2002 and Japan has since agreed to deals with Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines and Thailand.
However, the agreements with Manila and Bangkok have met political opposition by environmentalists in the Southeast Asian countries.
Japan is in ongoing negotiations with South Korea, Indonesia and with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a whole.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007