Trade negotiators from China, Japan and South Korea will hold their first round of negotiations on a free trade agreement among the three major Asian economies later this month.
The first round of trilateral FTA negotiations will be held in Seoul for three days from March 26 to discuss “the scope and method of negotiations, among others,” the Japanese government said in a statement.
The Chinese, Japanese and South Korean delegations to the first round will be headed by Assistant Commerce Minister Yu Jianhua, Deputy Foreign Minister Koji Tsuruoka, and Deputy Foreign and Trade Minister Choi Kyonglim, respectively, according to the statement.
China, Japan and South Korea are now Asia’s largest, second-largest and fourth-largest economies, and together account for about 20 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). India is Asia’s third-largest economy.
In 2010, Japan lost its much–vaunted status as the world’s second-biggest economy after the United States, which it had kept for 42 years, to China.
The inauguration of the FTA negotiations among China, Japan and South Korea will come only 11 days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Japan’s decision to participate in negotiations on the United States-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact.
China is said to be nervous about the TPP, seeing the proposed trade pact as the economic component of Washington’s China containment strategy. In fact, after Tokyo expressed its interest in joining the TPP negotiations, Beijing suddenly started showing enthusiasm about the proposed trilateral FTA with Japan and South Korea.
The TPP is a regional free trade initiative currently being negotiated among the U.S. and 10 other countries — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The TPP is intended to require member economies to scrap all import tariffs in principle. The 11 countries are aiming to conclude the TPP talks by the end of this year.
The launch of the FTA negotiations among China, Japan and South Korea will also come despite the recent flare-up in political tensions between Japan and China and also between Japan and South Korea over separate territorial disputes and in the wake of near-simultaneous leadership changes in the three Asian neighbors.