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China, Japan, S.Korea trade talks to start soon

Publication Date : 13-05-2012


Free-trade agreement negotiation between China, Japan and the Republic of Korea will probably begin within this year, officials from the three countries said yesterday.

"We agreed to recommend to the Trilateral Summit Meeting (May 13-14 in Beijing) that the trilateral FTA negotiation would be launched within this year," China's Commerce Minister Chen Deming told reporters after meeting with his counterparts - Bark Tae-ho, South Korea's trade minister, and Yukio Edano, Japan's minister of economy, trade and industry - during the Ninth Economic and Trade Ministers' Meeting in Beijing.

On Sunday the three countries will sign the Trilateral Investment Agreement, which was concluded in March after 13 rounds of negotiations since 2007. It will be the first legal agreement between the three parties and has great significance for trilateral investments and cooperation, Edano said.

The investment agreement played a crucial role for launching the trilateral FTA negotiations, according to Xu Changwen, director of the Asia-Pacific studies department in the Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce.

No specific timeline for concluding the three-way FTA talks was announced, but Edano said "the three parties will actively advance the joint accord" while Bark said that work to begin negotiations "will be immediately kicked off in South Korea".

Feasibility studies for the trilateral FTA were concluded in December 2011 after the idea of a three-party pact was first put forward in 2002.

The negotiation will be a milestone in advancing East Asian economic integration," Chen said, "because the added GDP of the three countries has surpassed $14 trillion and the added trade volume reached US$6.4 trillion."

Edano said that a trilateral FTA will not only boost prosperity in three countries but also strengthen the political and cultural ties and push forward the FTAs with the Asean.

Shen Minghui, a director at the China Academy of Social Sciences' institute of Asia-Pacific studies, said trilateral FTA talks may not go smoothly because of sensitive sectors in each country.

"While Japan and South Korea worry about damage to their agriculture and fishing sectors after opening up the markets, China will see great pressure from its machinery manufacturing industries including petrochemical, automobile and steel, which will be the key factors to decide the success of the trilateral FTA negotiations", he said.


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