EBay and Yahoo Japan have announced an online auction partnership designed to make it easier for their respective users to buy goods available on each other's sites.

The deal, which brings together the world leader in internet auctions with the largest player in the Japanese market, kicks off with the launch later today of 'Sekaimon'. The website, whose name in Japanese means 'gateway to the world', allows Yahoo Japan users access to bid on items listed on eBay's US site using their Yahoo Japan ID.

The second phase of the alliance will see eBay items listed within Yahoo Japan's auction site. This service is scheduled to begin by the end of March 2008. Then, before the end of 2008, items from Yahoo Japan will be listed on eBay's US site so that eBay users can bid and buy the items.

The alliance stands to benefit users of both sites. Sellers will get a wider audience for their goods, while buyers will see a richer selection of products on offer. The impact of the deal will mean more in certain areas. For example, US music fans will be able to more easily pick up many of the limited edition CDs that Western artists release in Japan, while Japanese movie enthusiasts will be able to find a wider array of DVDs than is available locally.

Tuesday deal marks a return to the Japan market for eBay. The site launched in early 2000 but was shuttered two years later after failing to compete with Yahoo Japan, which is also Japan's number one portal.

Yahoo holds just over a one-third stake in Yahoo Japan, with Softbank holding the largest stake, at 41 percent.