East Asian Bloc Moves Toward Closer Integration

      October 26, 2009 12:05

      Efforts to create an East Asian economic block began in earnest at the ASEAN + 3 and the East Asia summits on Saturday and Sunday in the Thai resort of Hua Hin.

      The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations declared they agreed in principle to establish an East Asia Free Trade Area (EAFTA) and a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia and decided to form four working groups to examine regulations on country-of-origin labeling, customs duties and customs-related issues, and economic cooperation.

      East Asian leaders join hands for the group photo at the 4th East Asia Summit, in Cha-am, Thailand on Sunday.

      Korea and China are taking the lead in creating the free economic zone among ASEAN, China, Japan and Korea, while Japan is leading the movement to form an economic community similar to the EU involving a total of 16 countries including Australia, India and New Zealand.

      ASEAN is seeking economic integration by 2015. It asked finance ministers from member nations to submit at the next session a draft recommendation on ways to form an East Asian economic bloc beyond ASEAN. It also pledged to continue talks with non-member states such as Korea, China, Japan and India.

      President Lee Myung-bak spoke highly of a feasibility study on EAFTA submitted to the ASEAN + 3, saying the foundations for stronger economic cooperation in East Asia should be built at the government level. A result of two years of study, the report says EAFTA could become the world's economic hub. "EAFTA will further enhance relationship among East Asian countries by not only increasing trade and investment but also promoting civil exchanges," Lee said.

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