• Kyodo

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Business leaders from Japan, China and South Korea are calling on their governments to conclude a trilateral free-trade agreement soon to further regional economic growth.

“It is essential that we conclude such an FTA as early as possible,” the top officials of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and the Federation of Korean Industries said Sunday in a joint statement.

The envisioned FTA “will fill a vital gap” in integrating the East Asian economies and “play a crucial role” in achieving greater economic integration that also involves the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other Pacific Rim countries.

A trilateral FTA “is expected to reduce tariffs, abolish export controls, stimulate investment and trade in services . . . and encourage cross-border movement” of personnel resources with specialized knowledge and skills, the statement said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak said in speeches delivered to the businessmen that it is important to move toward a trilateral FTA, adding that the three countries should speed up a joint study on the issue.

The business lobbies of the Northeast Asian neighbors, who met on the sidelines of an annual summit of the three countries’ national leaders, also agreed to promote standardization of energy-saving technologies as part of efforts to fight global warming.

Keidanren Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura emphasized in a speech the importance of signing a trilateral East Asian FTA.

“We reaffirmed the importance of integrating the regional economy in order to achieve sustainable economic growth in Asia,” Yonekura said.

As for the lessons learned from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which severely disrupted the supply chains of many manufacturers, the business leaders cited a need to collaborate with the public sector in providing support for devastated areas and sharing their disaster-response experiences and expertise.

They also agreed to enhance cooperation to help Japan’s industrial sector recover, according to the joint statement.

“Tokyo and wide areas of Japan are functioning as completely as before (the disasters), and Japan-made goods and products, including farm produce, maintain safety and high quality,” Kan said. “I hope people in the business communities feel secure and buy those goods and that many people will travel to Japan.”

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