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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 05:37 GMT 06:37 UK
Japan and Australia move on free trade
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (L) and his Australian counterpart John Howard
The two countries are important trading partners
Japan and Australia have agreed to work towards a free trade agreement.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his Australian counterpart John Howard both acknowledged that agreement would not be easy, especially given Japan's high tariffs on Australian agricultural imports.

Trade ties
Japan is Australia's biggest export market
Japan bought Australian exports worth $12bn in 2001
Australian beef exports to Japan were worth $1.07bn in 2000-1 despite a 38.5% tariff
But the premiers said the agreement was a "desirable goal" even if it would not be realised quickly. Their foreign affairs departments will now work on arranging free trade talks.

At the talks in Canberra, Australia also revived plans for a tripartite security arrangement with Japan and the US.

'No threat'

Mr Howard said he and Mr Koizumi had agreed to begin talks with Washington on an eventual three-way "security dialogue".

He stressed that such talks should not be seen as a threat to China.

It is not designed in any negative sense as far as China is concerned

John Howard

"It is not designed in any negative sense as far as China is concerned," he said.

"That is to misread it. It's merely a natural expression of the fact that we have a number of security interests in common in the region."

Mr Koizumi said for his part that each of the three states had a role to play in protecting the region from instability.

At the talks, Australia resisted a call by Japan to ratify the Kyoto pact on climate change which is designed to cut the emission of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Australia has refused to ratify the UN treaty, arguing it will not work as long as the United States, the world's biggest polluter, rejects it.

"So far as the ratification of Kyoto is concerned, Australia's position is that we believe the inclusion of the United States and developing countries is important if you are to have a really comprehensive global agreement on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions," said Mr Howard.

Richard Gibbs, Macquarie Bank in Sydney
"It has certain political attractions, it enhances the status of both countries in the region."
See also:

15 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Japan commits troops to East Timor
24 Jan 02 | Business
Japan firm admits BSE cash scam
02 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australia confronts Japanese whaler
29 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
New election blow for Koizumi
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