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AFX News Limited
Japanese govt to propose big Asian free-trade zone
04.04.2006, 12:31 AM



TOKYO (AFX) - The government here plans to propose the formation of an Asian free-trade zone which could include half the world's population and rival the EU and NAFTA, an official of the trade ministry said.

The zone would include 16 countries: the 10 members of ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

The government will propose that negotiations start in 2008 with a view to the conclusion of a pact in 2010, said Takeshi Fujimoto, who is in charge of promoting Japan's economic partnerships with other countries.

'The first reason for this is to accelerate East Asia's economic integration, which is already in the process of happening,' he said.

Trade minister Toshihiro Nikai plans to propose the idea at a governmental economic council meeting on Friday, Fujimoto said.

The proposed East Asian Economic Partnership Agreement could form a market larger than NAFTA or the EU, covering 3 bln people.

Its combined GDP would be 9.1 trln usd, one quarter of the global figure, according to 2004 data.

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