Tony abbott
Tony abbott Vicki Wood

Abbott wants quick Japan trade deal but is quiet on whales

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has urged the "swift conclusion" of a free trade deal with Japan with his Japanese counterpart, but has put whaling and claims over islands in the South China Sea off the table.

Mr Abbott is in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, as leader of the G20 - a key international meeting in the lead-up to Brisbane hosting the G20 later this year.

But while he secured a one-on-one meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Abbott said he would not be raising two key issues in the relationship.

The issues, whaling in the southern oceans, and the Japan-China dispute over ownership of islands in the South and East China Seas, were not expected to be mentioned in the high-level talks.

While Mr Abbott said he took such issues "very seriously", he did not "want to just go over old ground", instead focusing on issues he said "where we can make progress".

Instead, he said he wanted to discuss concluding the trade deal, in the hope of boosting Australia's agricultural exports to the heavily populated Asian nation.

Mr Abbott came after Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who leads monitoring of the Japanese whaling fleet, last week said diplomatic discussions were a key part of the Abbott government's approach to end whaling.

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