Last update 3/29/2012 10:01:00 AM (GMT+7)

Noda, Monti pledge efforts for start of FTA talks between Japan, EU

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Italian counterpart Mario Monti on Wednesday reached consensus on the early start of talks on a free trade pact between Japan and the European Union.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (L) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the end of their joint news conference at Noda's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, March 28, 2012. (Xinhua/POOL/Shuji Kajiyama)

The leaders of the two nations told a press conference in Tokyo that fiscal rehabilitation and stimulation of economic growth are essential for both countries, which are confronted with similar economic challenges.

Japan and the European Union reached an agreement on the launch of preliminary negotiations on a free trade agreement last May.

But Kyodo News reported that many obstacles lay before such a pact as farmers in Japan have been resistant to opening up local markets while the European automakers feared Japanese competition.

European countries also have concerns about nontariff barriers in fields including public sector procurement and medical equipment.

"I'd like to stress that removing nontariff barriers will be a prerequisite for the launch of talks on an EU-Japan economic partnership agreement," Monti said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Italian prime minister exchanged views with Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi on the possibility of increasing resources at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to prevent further spreading of the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone.

Monti also urged Japanese investors to increase investment in his country because he believed the eurozone debt crisis was "almost over".

Monti is in Japan for a four-day visit, which is scheduled to be wrapped up Friday.