Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Singapore counterpart K. Shanmugam agreed Friday to boost cooperation in negotiations for a regional free trade agreement, Japanese officials said.
During their talks in Singapore, Kishida and Shanmugam also reaffirmed the need to have respect for international law, bearing in mind China’s growing maritime activities in the South China Sea and East China Sea, the officials said.
Their meeting came at a time China is increasingly assertive in its territorial and other claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea, clashing with the interests of Japan and some Southeast Asian countries.
On the economic front, Kishida told Shanmugam that free trade is vital to Japan’s economic diplomacy and expressed his country’s eagerness to pursue high-level economic partnerships.
The minister also voiced hope the free trade accord known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will become a reality, the officials said.
The RCEP involves 16 countries — the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand — and is designed to liberalize trade in goods, services and investment in the region.
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