Japan, ASEAN trade chiefs call for increased economic ties

Trade ministers from Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Sunday called for increased economic relations between the trade partners.

Speaking at a forum in Tokyo, Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi said Japan and ASEAN are among each other's most important trading partners, pointing out that Japan's direct investment in the 10-member bloc is larger than that of any other country.

Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Irawan Wirjawan said that given such evidence, he is "optimistic that the relationship between ASEAN and Japan, particularly in the economic domain, will grow even more strongly and more deeply."

Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan, Thailand's deputy prime minister and minister of commerce, said Japan's experience in infrastructure development would help ASEAN, and he encouraged Japanese companies to bid on $73 billion of new infrastructure projects in Thailand.

"The strengthening of ASEAN-Japan relations comes at a crucial time" as "the center of gravity of the global economy is shifting to Asia," said Lim Jock Seng, Brunei's second minister of foreign affairs and trade.

The ministers made the comments a day after Japan and ASEAN vowed to enhance regional economic tie-ups in a joint statement issued after a summit in Tokyo.

The forum brought together commerce ministers, business leaders and academics from the two sides.