KUALA LUMPUR - Ministers from ASEAN and Japan will join business leaders for the first time from Friday for talks on lifting trade barriers and securing closer economic ties, a Malaysian official said Thursday.
Industry leaders from ASEAN and the Japanese Chambers of Commerce and Industry asked politicians to join them at the annual two-day gathering in Kuala Lumpur, which aims to address problems faced by Japanese investors targeting the 10-nation bloc.
"They are expected to deliberate on the implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area ... as well as ways to address barriers to trade in order to boost economic cooperation," the trade ministry said in a statement.
"Other key issues include problems faced by Japan's private sector when investing in ASEAN and ways to boost their investments," it added.
Senior trade ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- including from Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia -- have confirmed participation along with ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan.
The Malaysian official said the ministers would also discuss the economic impact of Japan's March 11 earthquake-tsunami on the region and how ASEAN could help in the country's recovery.
The Bank of Japan's keenly-watched Tankan survey of business confidence plunged in the months after the disaster, turning negative for the first time in more than a year, as factories were shuttered, power shut off and supply lines broken.
While firms expect conditions to improve by September, analysts warned that the pace of Japan's recovery was uncertain amid power shortages following the crisis at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Japan has always been the top source of foreign direct investment in ASEAN, pouring in $5.2 billion in 2009.
Trade between ASEAN and Japan in 2010 is estimated at $220 billion, well up from $160.9 billion in 2009.
ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.