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Seoul looking to host first talks on triple FTA

Kyodo

South Korea is seeking to hold the first round of talks on a free-trade deal with Japan and China in Seoul late this month, its foreign ministry said Friday.

“Specifics regarding the date and agenda are being discussed with China and Japan,” the ministry said in a statement.

The trilateral talks are to follow up an agreement reached among the trade ministers from the three countries in Cambodia last November.

The ministers decided that the first round of the talks would be held in early 2013.

The talks are to be held three times this year, with each side hosting a round. South Korea, the host of the trilateral summit set to be held this year, will host the first round, the statement said.

“The (South Korean) government will fully take into account what impact the (trilateral) FTA will bring on our economy in conducting the talks,” the statement said.

South Korea will also “make its utmost efforts in reflecting the agricultural sector’s opinions” in the upcoming talks, it said.

In Beijing, Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming commented that while China is patient about the negotiations, “I hope we could be a little faster,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

“But we do not set a deadline,” Chen added, noting there is no timetable for the talks.

“We know any FTA negotiation is related to very important interests of different countries and it’s difficult to set an exact timetable for the talks,” he said, speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of an annual legislative session.

Whether the three East Asian countries can start the talks has drawn attention at a time when China and Japan are locked in a dispute over the sovereignty of islets in the East China Sea, while Japan and South Korea are also at loggerheads over a pair of islets in the Sea of Japan.