China, Japan and South Korea agreed to seek the completion of a joint study on a trilateral free trade agreement this year, one year earlier than initially planned, paving the way for the launch of negotiations on the pact as early as next year.
The agreement came when the leaders of the three countries –- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak -- held talks in Tokyo on Sunday.
Government officials, business representatives and academics from the three countries have conducted the joint study on the trilateral FTA since May 2010.
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Wen, Kan and Lee agreed on the need to make further efforts to achieve a “substantial agreement” in the ongoing negotiations on a trilateral investment treaty as early as possible, according to a joint declaration issued after the trilateral summit.
They “shared the view that the three countries should strengthen cooperation to further enhance vitality and dynamism of the region and lead the vigorous growth of Asia,” the joint declaration says.
China, Japan and South Korea are now Asia’s largest, second-largest and fourth-largest economies, which together account for about 20 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). India is Asia’s third-largest economy.
Last year, Japan lost its much–vaunted status as the world’s second-biggest economy after the U.S., which it had kept for 42 years, to China.
The joint declaration also says that the three leaders “reaffirmed the importance of food safety and energy security, and encouraged dialogues and cooperation in these fields.”
According to an annex titled “Cooperation on Nuclear Safety,” which was issued along with the joint declaration, the three leaders “shared the view that it is important to take necessary responses prudently on the safety of products based upon scientific evidence in case of a nuclear accident.”
The Tokyo summit was the fourth of its kind since Japan, China and South Korea agreed in 2008 to take turns to host the three-way meeting every year in order to enhance mutual trust and cooperation.
Prior to the Tokyo summit, the Chinese and South Korean leaders visited an area near the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant at the center of the ongoing nuclear crisis on Saturday after touring other areas ravaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami to show their support for Japan’s reconstruction efforts.
Kan greeted the two leaders in Fukushima City, about 60 kilometers from the nuclear plant, and the three visited an evacuation center. It was the first time that foreign leaders had visited the city since the March 11 twin natural disasters and the ensuing nuclear crisis.
Kan said during a press conference on Sunday’s, along with Wen and Lee, that the visits to Fukushima City by the Chinese and South Korea leaders were ‘‘the most effective way to demonstrate to the world that Japan is safe and that Japanese food is safe.”
Wen pledged to Kan in bilateral talks on Sunday that China will ease its import restrictions on Japanese foods by removing Yamagata and Yamanashi from the list of 12 Japanese prefectures, whose food products are currently under an import ban in response to the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No.1 plant.
The remaining 10 prefectures are Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Niigata and Nagano.
Wen also told Kan that submission of radioactivity examination certificates for food products from prefectures other than the 10 will be unnecessary except for dairy produce, vegetables, fishery products and some others.