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Gillard renews call for Japan to take next step by sealing economic deal

Date

Ross Peake

Julia Gillard addressing the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York  last month.

Julia Gillard addressing the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York last month. Photo: Reuters

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is putting renewed pressure on Japan to finalise a free trade agreement with Canberra.

She pointed out last night that Australia supplies the ''lion's share'' of Japan's resources, including 60 per cent of its iron ore and coal.

''If you eat a McDonald's hamburger in Japan, it's almost certain to contain Aussie beef,'' she said. ''If you drink a Japanese beer, it's probably made with Australian barley.''

Ms Gillard made her pitch in front of a high-powered audience that included the outgoing Japanese ambassador, Shigekazu Sato.

She said a free trade agreement, which has been under negotiation for five years, would reduce costs and boost trade.

Ms Gillard recently spoke to her Japanese counterpart Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda about pushing ahead after Japan's recent period of grieving.

Speaking to a 50th anniversary conference of the Australia-Japan Foundation, Ms Gillard said the bilateral partnership had endured changes of governments and economic cycles.

The growth of the Asian middle class would provide opportunities for both countries.

''The first thing we can do is get the free trade agreement done,'' Ms Gillard said. ''We have developed a reputation in Japan as a reliable supplier of safe, high quality food.

''Japan is a critically important economic partner for Australia, and will remain so in the future, but in a dynamic and changing region, it's time to take the next step.

''It's time to seal the deal on a free trade agreement. Free and open trade is the cornerstone of Australia's prosperity. Opening markets and curbing protectionism increases prosperity and creates jobs all round.

''No FTA should be more natural or logical than with Japan. Perhaps now, as this special anniversary year enters its final months, we can … finalise the FTA. Such an agreement would be a fitting culmination of all our great work over the past 50 years.'' 

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