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Singapore, Japan in Free Trade Deal

January 13, 2002

SINGAPORE (AP) _ The leaders of Japan and Singapore on Sunday signed a free trade pact _ the first of its kind for Japan _ that is expected to removed tariffs on almost all goods traded between the two countries.

The agreement was signed by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

It will provide a ``model ... for Japan’s economic relations with Asia,″ Koizumi said.

``What we are signing is not a conventional free trade agreement,″ Goh said, adding that it also fosters cooperation in science and technology, financial services, tourism and training.

Singapore, a small country with 4 million people and virtually no natural resources, depends heavily on foreign trade and has been aggressively seeking free trade pacts with other nations.

It already has signed a pact with New Zealand and negotiated another with a coalition of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. That deal is expected to be signed next year.

Singapore is also discussing deals with the United States and Australia.

Koizumi has been on five-nation Southeast Asian tour to strengthen Japan’s ties with the region.

Much of his trip has been dominated by talk of a Japanese proposal to set up a free trade zone incorporating Southeast Asia, Japan, China and South Korea.

That zone would encompass more than 600 million people _ an important market for Japanese exports.

Koizumi has visited the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, facing some protests over Japanese actions during World War II.

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