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Pushing trade to new heights [24-10-2012]  
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THE Asean-Japan free trade pact must conclude the agreement on investments and services as soon as possible to bring trade and investment relations to a new level.

"Do this and we will be able to extend business prospects to areas other than trade in goods," Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir said.

Speaking at the one-day Asean-Japan business meeting here yesterday, Mukhriz said the Asean Economic Community (AEC) single market, which takes shape in three years, is not up to speed in the implementation of measures.

A mid-term review of the implementation programme undertaken by Asean and the East Asia Economic Research Institute revealed shortfalls in critical areas.

"While Asean moves fast to form the AEC, a parallel effort must also be mounted to strengthen and deepen Asean-Japan economies ties," he said, referring to the plan of action adopted by Asean and Japan in Bali last year.

At the Asean economic ministers meeting in Siem Reap recently, an Asean-Japan 10-year strategic economic cooperation roadmap was endorsed to increase trade flows and investments to US$500 billion (RM1.53 trillion) and US$40 billion respectively.

Apart from Japan, Asean already has free trade agreements with China, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Japan is Asean's second largest investor, contributing 30 per cent in 2011 to reach US$15.2 billion.

On the trading front, Japan is Asean's second largest trading partner after China. Japan is also Asean's largest export destination with exports totalling US$147 billion and imports at US$126 billion.

"It is time for Asean and the other countries to move to a higher level of economic integration by supporting the formation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership."

Keizai Doyukai, an association of Japan's corporate executives, said Japan and Asean needed to be positioned to benefit from renewed growth when it comes.

Its chairman Eizo Kobayashi said the sense of urgency, the passion and willingness to work together is something that Japan can learn from the Asean grouping.

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