Israel has agreed to open contacts with Japan aimed at reaching a free trade agreement that could lift bilateral trade valued at more than $3.5 billion, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
The first phase will be a meeting between representatives from the Israeli foreign and economy ministries with relevant Japanese officials, according to the statement.
Israeli exports to Japan were valued at $1.241 billion in 2021, the ministry said, an 8% increase from 2020. The statement noted a 10% increase in imports from Japan to Israel since last year, valued at $2.333 billion in 2021.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailed the move as a diplomatic achievement.
"A year ago, my Japanese counterpart and I began discussing ways of deepening our economic ties. Today, Israel and Japan took the first step towards turning that vision into a reality," Lapid tweeted.
"Looking forward to working together to shape an economic partnership agreement between our nations," he added.
"This is a meaningful process that could lead to lower customs, cheaper sales of Japanese cars imported to Israel and an expansion of the Israeli goods exported to Japan," Israel's ambassador to Japan Gilad Cohen said in a statement.