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Monday, August 20, 2007

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Indonesia Sunday at the start of a three-nation Asian tour, with a key trade agreement to be signed between Tokyo and Jakarta during his stop here.

Abe arrived at Jakarta's Halim Perdanakusumah airbase, where he was met by local dignitaries led by foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda.

On Monday, the premier will meet with host President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for bilateral talks and to oversee the signing of a comprehensive Economy Partn-ership Agreement, which has been under negotiation since mid-2005.

The so-called EPA is a modified free trade deal that sees Japan offer extra benefits to partners beyond simple tariff cuts.

Under the pact, more than 90 percent of trade between the two nations will gradually become tax-free, while energy-hungry Japan will secure access to Indonesian natural gas sources and raw materials and Indonesia will receive assistance in several sectors.

Indonesia is Japan's biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplier and Japan is Indonesia's biggest trading partner.

Southeast Asia's largest economy exported 21.7 billion dollars worth of goods there in 2006, while imports from Japan stood at 5.5 billion dollars over the same period. Around 1,000 Japanese companies operate in Indonesia.

The EPA provides a framework for cooperation in sectors such as trade service and customs procedures, investment, energy and mineral resources, protection of intellectual property, and government procurement.

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