Korea, China and Japan will hold three days of talks starting on March 26 on forging a trilateral free trade agreement.
The three countries began discussion of the deal in 2003. In November last year, their trade ministers announced the start of negotiations, but they were delayed due to chilled relations over territorial spats between the three countries.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Friday, representatives from the three sides plan to focus on setting the schedule and scope of the negotiations during the first round of the talks.
But trade experts are skeptical about the plan's success. "The motive is political," said Huh Yoon at Sogang University. "China wants to use the FTA as leverage against the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership economic pact, while Japan wants to use it to keep in check rapid progress in Seoul and Beijing signing an FTA. It's easy to start the talks, but an agreement will be difficult to reach."
If an FTA is signed, the economic bloc comprised of the three Asian powers will become the world's third largest after NAFTA and the EU. Their combined economies would encompass 1.5 billion people and amount to US$14 trillion in GDP.