Economic ministers from the 16 member countries of the East Asia Summit along with India are likely to agree to start within this year, a study of a Tokyo-proposed free trade agreement (FTA) among them when they meet in the Philippines later this month, the Japanese government has said.
The ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand are expected to agree to the Japanese proposal at a series of meetings on Jan 11 and 12 in the central Philippine province of Cebu, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.
The agreement to launch the study of economic partnership will be formally endorsed at a meeting of the leaders of 16 nations on January 15.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akira Amari will attend the summit.
Quoting the ministry, Japan's Kyodo Press reported that the economic ministers from the 10-member ASEAN plus Japan, China and South Korea would hold an ASEAN 3 meeting on Jan 11 while the ministers of the 16 members of the East Asia Summit would hold talks on January 12.
Amari is expected to hold a separate meeting the same day with his counterparts from ASEAN member countries -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Japan and ASEAN are expected to agree in principle on the timing and the scope of tariff elimination in a critical move for them to conclude a free trade agreement in spring.