Japan and Colombia have agreed to launch formal negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) aimed at eliminating import tariffs on most products traded between the two countries.
The agreement came when Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos met in New York on Tuesday, the Japanese government said on Wednesday.
The two leaders are in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said that Japan and Colombia have yet to discuss a specific schedule for the FTA negotiations.
Japan is now the world’s third-largest economy after the United States and China. Colombia has a population of about 46.7 million, the third largest in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico. Colombia is the fifth largest economy in Latin America after Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela.
According to the government-affiliated Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and Japan’s Foreign Ministry, Japan exported $1.438 billion worth of products to Colombia and imported $528 million worth of goods from the Latin American country in 2011. Japan’s main export items are autos and auto parts, and its main import items are coffee and cut flowers.
Japan has so far seen its free trade agreements with 12 countries — Singapore, Mexico, Malaysia, Chile, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, Switzerland, Vietnam, India and Peru — and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a whole go into effect. ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Among the countries and regional organizations with which Colombia has so far signed free trade agreements are the U.S., the European Union, Canada and Mexico, as well as other Latin American countries and organizations, including Mercosur.
The FTA between Colombia and the U.S. took effect in May of this year.