Korea, China, Japan Start Free Trade Talks This Month

      December 12, 2011 12:37

      Korea, China and Japan will meet this month to hammer out a solid framework for trilateral free-trade negotiations starting next summer, Japan's Nihon Keizai newspaper reported on Sunday.

      The paper said government officials, industry representatives and academics from the three nations will hold a preliminary meeting in Pyeongchang from Dec. 14 to 16 to lay the foundations for negotiations for the trade deal.

      Citing a Japanese government official, the daily said the three parties agreed to kick off the FTA talks at a trilateral summit in China next spring and start detailed negotiations in the summer.

      The paper added that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will raise this issue when he meets with President Lee Myung-bak on Dec. 17. China seems especially keen now that Japan has declared that it will participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade pact led by the U.S.

      But a bumpy road lies ahead. China is reluctant to cut tariffs on automobiles and electronic goods and Japan to open up its agricultural market. Japan is also hoping to seal a separate FTA with Korea at the same time, although negotiations on this issue have been stalled since 2004.

      "As for the bilateral FTA, Japan is keen to conclude it as soon as possible," a Korean diplomat said. "But Korea, which has a negative trade balance with Japan, sees no need to hurry."

      Meanwhile, investment between the three countries is to be boosted by a separate trilateral agreement effective late next year. The agreement includes guidelines for businesses to protect their intellectual property rights, and solve relevant issues and disputes.

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