Korea, China, Japan to launch free trade talks this month
Published : 2013-03-08 19:36
Updated : 2013-03-08 19:36
Korea, China, and Japan will kick off their official negotiations on a trilateral Free Trade Agreement in Seoul this month, said officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The trade pact, if properly effectuated as planned, would become the first one to be clinched by the new Park Geun-hye administration. It would also form the world’s third-largest economic bloc, following the North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Union.
President Park received related reports from the ministry on Thursday and approved of the proceedings of the talks, the officials said.
“In preparation to the imminent three-party talks, which will take place in Seoul in late March, we are currently negotiating with Japan on some of the details,” the ministry said through a statement.
The regional FTA was first officially brought up in the trilateral summit last May and was confirmed in November.
There have been concerns, however, on whether the project would move along within the first half of this year, especially due to the bilateral diplomatic conflicts.
“China, too, was experiencing feuds with Japan at the time that the FTA blueprint was announced,” said Park Chun-il, FTA & Regional Studies Department director of the Korea International Trade Association.
“It nevertheless seems to have decided to separate its political issues from economic ones.”
China appears financially pressed by the United States and that it is seeking economic alternatives and win an initiative in the East Asian region, Park added.
Korea, despite its domestic turmoil over the transfer of its trade department from the Foreign Ministry to the Industry Ministry, is also zealous over the plan.
The agreement is expected to involve a total population of 1.5 billion and a gross domestic product of $14 trillion, according to officials.
“It is significant that the three countries should push ahead with the FTA negotiations, despite the escalating North Korean nuclear threat,” said an official of Cheong Wa Dae.
“The Korea-China bilateral FTA negotiations were also slated to take place in the first quarter but this was delayed to April or May, in a joint aim to prioritize the trilateral talks,” said a ministry official.
“The Korea-China-Japan trade alliance will not only affect the economy but also the diplomatic and military ties of the three countries in the long term.”
The three partners will discuss further details during the three-party trade minister summit, which is also to be held in Seoul in May.
“Though it is the common understanding that the trilateral pact is to kick off as soon as possible, agricultural and fisheries goods yet remain a sensitive issue for the domestic industry,” the official added.