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Japan's trade minister visits Australia

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Japan’s trade minister Banri Kaieda visited Sydney last week to discuss a potential free trade agreement between the two nations. It is the second ministerial trade and economic dialogue between Australia and Japan, following failed negotiations last April but this time Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan has conceded that freer trade may help Japan out of severe recession. Australian Minister for Trade Craig Emerson said Japan’s new attitude would re-energise the trade negotiations. "Australia would want a good offer on liberalising trade in agriculture as an essential part of any such agreement. If tariffs went down and quotas increased we’d have better access," he said. While Japan is Australia’s second largest trading partner, tariffs are a barrier to agricultural exports. Japan imposes tariffs of up to 800 percent on imported rice and 250 percent on imported wheat. An FTA would open up the Japanese market for Australian agriculture. In return, Japan is pushing for access to Australian minerals, particularly uranium for use in nuclear power. With a population of 130 million on a small landmass, Japan relies on food imports to feed its people but has never signed an FTA with a major agricultural exporter. "There’s work to be done and we’re prepared to do it. We’ll work our guts out," Emerson said.

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