Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and visiting European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht on Monday vowed their cooperation in formal trade negotiations, as the leaders of the two sides declared the launch of the talks on the same day.
At their talks in Tokyo, Kishida expressed his desire to cooperate with De Gucht in furthering Japan-European Union (EU) economic relations, including promoting a Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, the Foreign Ministry said.
"Promoting free trade is one of the pillars of Japan's international trade policies. We intended to strategically promote a high-level economic partnership with the EU that benefits both sides, in addition to Economic Partnership Agreements with the Asia-Pacific and East Asia regions," the minister told the commissioner.
In response, De Gucht said the EU appreciated Japan's cooperation to launch the negotiations and that a trustworthy relationship had been established between the EU and Japan, according to the ministry. He also expressed his desire to continue to cooperate with Japan in realizing the early conclusion of an ambitious and comprehensive free trade pacts.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and EU President Herman Van Rompuy agreed to start formal trade negotiations in their telephone conversations on Monday evening.
The telephone conversations were arranged after Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso postponed their visit, due Monday, because of the financial crisis in Cyprus. At its trade ministers' meeting last November, the 27-nation regional bloc decided to launch free trade talks with Japan, which together account for around 30 percent of global gross domestic product.