NEW DELHI (AFP) – India and Japan wound up their first round of discussions with an agreement on the terms of negotiations for a comprehensive free trade deal within two years, Indian officials said.
The two sides during the talks in New Delhi set up four working groups which will focus on talks on trade in goods, services, investment and bilateral cooperation, the officials said in a statement on Friday.
“The second round of the negotiations will be held in April in Tokyo,” the statement said.
The visiting delegation was headed by Japan’s deputy Foreign Minister Mashaharu Kohno, with Indian commerce secretary Gopal Krishna Pillai leading the talks for New Delhi.
The negotiations follow an agreement in Tokyo in December between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to conclude free-trade talks within two years.
Abe has attached a top priority to forging closer ties with fellow democracy India to compensate for frequent tensions with China.
In a gesture of goodwill, Japan last June lifted a ban on the import of mangoes from India, a long-standing demand.
But bilateral trade between Japan and India hovers at only six billion dollars, tiny compared with the more than 170 billion dollars of trade between Japan and China.
Among its priorities, Japan wants to lower India’s 100 percent tariffs on vehicle imports and establish common rules on investment and services, Japanese officials in New Delhi said.
India, in turn, has expressed interest in deregulation of Japanese customs inspections, cutting tariffs on shrimp imports and loosening visa rules for Indian medical care workers and engineers.
Japan, the world’s second largest economy and a major exporter, has been seeking a growing number of free trade deals as global trade liberalization talks stalled.
Since signing its first agreement with Singapore in 2002, Japan has sealed deals or their framework with Brunei, Chile, Indonesia, Mexico, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
India is also looking at a range of trade pacts, including with China, South Korea and Australia.
India already has free trade agreements with Thailand and Singapore.