MANILA-- Japan has called on the ASEAN member states to counter protectionism policies in some parts of the world by promoting free trade in the region.

In a press briefing of Japanese Foreign Ministry Deputy Press Secretary Toshihide Ando here Sunday evening, Foreign Minister Taro Kono urged ASEAN foreign ministers to continue its direction of liberalizing trade not only in the Southeast Asian region but also in other parts of Asia.

While protectionist sentiment is spreading around the world, it is incumbent for us to send the message to ASEAN to promote free and open economic order and free trade regimes, Ando said.

ASEAN and Japan has free trade agreement, boosting its two-way trade in 2016 to reach USD221.7 billion.

Moreover, Japan also urged the ASEAN for the early conclusion of negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

RCEP is envisioned to be a free trade deal among ASEAN and other countries which it has FTA. These FTA partners of ASEAN include Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Japan, and South Korea.

The Philippines, as the host of this year's ASEAN summit, targets to conclude the negotiations of RCEP during its chairmanship.

To enhance this momentum, Japan and ASEAN should seek for the early conclusion of negotiations of RCEP led by ASEAN to reach a comprehensive, well-balanced, and high quality agreement, Ando said.

To further strengthen dialogue partnership with ASEAN, Japanese Foreign Minister Kono announced during the ASEAN-Japan Ministerial Meeting that negotiations on ASEAN-Japan Technical Cooperation Agreement will be launched.

I firmly believe that this agreement will contribute to expand Japan-ASEAN relationship as agreement will enable JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) to provide assistance for projects that ASEAN community seeks to advance in addition to existing Japan's bilateral assistance to respective ASEAN member state, Kono said.


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