Prime Minister Mario Monti has appealed to Japan to invest in Italy, as he bids to persuade major Asian economies that his debt-stricken nation is open for business under his reformist leadership.
The worst of the eurozone crisis could be over after Greece won its latest lifeline from creditors, Italy's technocrat leader said in an interview with Japanese business daily Nikkei published on Sunday.
Monti said he would tell Japanese leaders this week that "Italy is becoming by the day a more promising place in which to make both financial investments but also foreign direct investments".
Monti said his government realises that one of its paramount challenges is to "make Italy a more attractive location for investment through reform of the labour market".
On the overall sovereign debt crisis afflicting the 17-nation eurozone, he said: "The Greek crisis is hopefully heading towards a resolution."
Monti, who in November replaced Silvio Berlusconi as premier as Italy toppled on the edge of financial meltdown, arrives in South Korea on Monday for a two-day global summit on combating nuclear terrorism.
But the major plank of his Asian tour, which will also take in Japan and China this week, is to strengthen trade relations with Asia's key financial players, Italian analysts said.
They say Italy is looking to lure Asian investment into information technology, infrastructure, green energy and tourism -- and boost exports of luxury fashion goods to a region with a passion for Prada shoes and Gucci bags.
Monti is spending fully four days in Japan from Tuesday, and has meetings scheduled with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Finance Minister Jun Azumi and leaders of the country's main financial institutions.
He will arrive in Asia fresh from persuading Italy's trade unions to fall in with his reforms to modernise the labour market. The plan will now go before parliament in the coming weeks.
But while advertising Italy's appeal to foreign investors, Monti also said that Japan needs to do more if it wants to clinch a prospective free-trade agreement with the European Union.
Japan and the EU are expected to launch FTA talks possibly in July, the Nikkei said.
Cutting tariff and non-tariff barriers could make EU-Japan trade explode by more than 70 percent in the next decade, Monti was quoted as saying in the newspaper's online English edition.
But the premier said Japan "has a very complex and rather tight system of regulations and standards, certainly different from those which we have in the European Union", which he said were more in line with international norms.
"So this creates a series of barriers that prevent, or discourage at the very least, the entrance of our companies into Japan," Monti said.
"We want an ambitious FTA, and it cannot be ambitious and really balanced without concrete progress in the removal of existing non-tariff barriers to trade."
Monti reiterated his belief that for its part, Europe's single currency area could do more to help itself by issuing common eurobonds as a way of pooling its debts and so overcome the crisis.
"There may be excessive hope by some highly indebted countries that this financial innovation could take them out of trouble, and excessive concern by Germany and other financially solid countries that this financial innovation may call on them to pay the price for the profligacy of others," he said.
"Once these clouds are dispelled, hopefully with the phasing out of the Greek crisis, I believe a more mature view will be possible by both camps."