SEOUL – Japan, China and South Korea on Tuesday launched the first round of negotiations for concluding a free-trade agreement among the three nations that together account for around 20 percent of world gross domestic product.
Japan’s political relations with China and South Korea have been strained due to ongoing territorial disputes, but the three economies are increasingly dependent on one another for trade and investment. China has become Japan’s biggest export market.
The government hopes the FTA talks will help mend the soured relations with China and South Korea.
The three nations aim to strike a deal as early as possible, though no clear deadline has been set.
In the first round, scheduled to run through Thursday, officials will discuss how to proceed with the negotiations and areas other than trade and investment that may be covered in the three-way talks.
The key will be whether to include environment-related matters and protection of intellectual property rights.
“Economic integration among Japan, China and South Korea is important to East Asia and the rest of the world,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Koji Tsuruoka, Japan’s chief representative in the FTA negotiations.
An FTA would bring a lot of benefits to the people, economies and industries of the three nations, Tsuruoka emphasized.
China currently imposes tariffs on about 70 percent of all products imported from Japan, such as automobiles, machinery and chemical products. The proportion stands at some 60 percent for Japanese items exported to South Korea.