Rosenthal calls for closer cooperation with Japan

During a two-day working visit to Japan, foreign minister Uri Rosenthal and his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba agreed to work more closely in a number of political and economic fields.

Japan has long wished for a free-trade agreement with the EU. In common with his EU counterparts, Mr Rosenthal would welcome such a pact, but the EU member states first require Japan to take steps to clear away existing barriers to trade. Since the outbreak of BSE, for instance, the Netherlands has no longer been able to export veal to Japan. The removal of obstacles to free trade is necessary if negotiations with the EU are to succeed. The ministers agreed to continue to consult each other on this issue.

Both Mr Gemba and Mr Rosenthal expressed concern at increasing threats to the safety of shipping. Both endorsed the need to continue international efforts to combat piracy, where possible in the form of joint initiatives.

Mr Gemba also stated that he would work actively to extend the cooperative programme aimed at enabling the Dutch and Japanese people to come to terms with the events of the Second World War. The programme facilitates historic research and promotes the exchange of descendants of former prisoners of war and of Dutch or Indonesian women and Japanese men.

The two ministers discussed how Dutch expertise in the field of water management, agriculture and horticulture could be deployed in the reconstruction of agricultural areas destroyed in the tsunami. Later this year, Japan will host a Dutch horticultural mission to the stricken region around the town of Sendai. Mr Rosenthal will visit this region on the second day of his trip.

Mr Rosenthal and his Japanese counterpart