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Japan gov't approves signing of revised free trade pact with ASEAN

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 4th from left, and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations wave for a group photo in Singapore, on Nov. 14, 2018. (Pool photo/Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government endorsed at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday a plan to sign a revised free trade agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that includes the liberalization of the service sector and investment field.

The pact between the 10-member ASEAN, Japan's major trading partner in Asia after China, will take effect among countries that have completed their domestic procedures. Japan will sign the accord Wednesday and seek parliamentary approval in the fall, while ASEAN countries are expected to start signing it from Saturday.

"I hope (the revised agreement) will become a huge step forward in strengthening our economic partnership with ASEAN," Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters.

The original economic partnership agreement with ASEAN took effect in 2008, becoming the first multilateral free trade accord for Japan, and focused on the trade of goods, according to the Foreign Ministry.

To enhance the benefits of the pact, negotiations on the services and investment sectors began in 2010 and were concluded at a ministerial level in 2017.

Under the revised accord, foreign companies can sue a state for compensation when they believe a government decision has harmed their business.

In 2018, Japan's exports to and imports from the ASEAN bloc totaled over 12 trillion yen ($108 billion), respectively, according to government data.

Tokyo also has bilateral free trade agreements with seven ASEAN nations -- Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- but not with Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

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