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Australia’s Gillard Says Time for Free-Trade Accord With Japan

Australia and Japan need to overcome hurdles and agree on a free-trade pact after five years of talks, according to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

“Japan is a critically important economic partner for Australia and will remain so in the future,” Gillard said in e-mailed notes prepared ahead of a speech scheduled for tonight in Sydney. “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,” she said.

Australia’s two-way commerce with Japan, the country’s second-largest trading partner, totaled A$66.1 billion ($67.2 billion) in 2010, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Negotiations on a free-trade agreement with Japan started in April 2007 and “only a few hurdles remain,” Gillard said, without specifying what they are.

Commodities, including iron ore and coal, made up 47.5 percent of Australia’s total exports in 2010, according to the government department. China was Australia’s largest trading partner.

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