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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Clark, Fukuda concur on all but agriculture


Staff writer

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda agreed Wednesday to cooperate on global warming, security and other areas but failed to make progress on signing a free-trade agreement, according to a joint statement issued after their summit in Tokyo.

Clark and Fukuda failed to report any progress on a FTA despite New Zealand's desire for a deal that would promote agricultural exports to Japan.

During the meeting, Clark proposed that the two countries launch a joint study to explore a bilateral FTA, Japanese officials said.

But Fukuda told Clark such a pact would be "difficult," the officials said.

The Japanese government has strongly resisted opening up the agriculture sector because it could seriously impact rural areas, where farmers have strong political sway.

In the joint statement, the two leaders "reconfirmed" the importance of food supply stability, recognizing Japan as "a net importer" and New Zealand "an important supplier of food."

The statement also expressed concerns over rising prices for various food products, saying the inflation could hinder developing countries' efforts to reduce poverty.

"In order to make concrete and various points raised in the joint press statement, we intend to continue to cooperate bilaterally," Fukuda told reporters after meeting Clark.

"We see Japan and New Zealand as natural partners" because the two are mature democratic states that share common values, Clark said.

Fukuda noted that Clark expressed support for Japan's efforts to form an international consensus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Fukuda has approached a number of world leaders recently to secure their cooperation before Japan hosts the July Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido. Japan is particularly interested in spearheading efforts to establish a post-2012 framework for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The joint statement specifically mentioned cooperation in 37 areas ranging from business, nonproliferation and the fight against terrorism.

In a separate meeting with Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, Clark took up the whaling issue. While emphasizing that the distance between the two countries should be a factor in discussing whether whaling can be justified, Clark said Wellington opposes any violent activities aimed at stopping whaling, the officials said.

Machimura said objective discussions based on scientific data on whaling is important.



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