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China-Japan-Korea

The governments of China, South Korea and Japan are expected to commence negotiations on an eventual trilateral free trade agreement between the three countries during 2012 by first concluding bilateral agreements.

In December 2011, the three countries held a final joint study meeting on the feasibility of an FTA among them.

In January 2012, the South Korean and Chinese presidents announced that they would move towards negotiating a bilateral agreement between the two countries. In March 2012, the three countries concluded an investment agreement among themselves which is viewed as a step towards a more comprehensive FTA. In May 2012, China and Korea held their first round of negotiations towards an FTA in Beijing.

Negotiations on a Japan-Korea bilateral FTA, which stalled in 2004, despite several attempts to revive them, have to contend with unresolved tensions stemming from the Japanese occupation of Korea in the first half of the 20th century and Japanese resistance to lowering tariffs on agricultural imports. Any eventual FTA between China, South Korea and Japan needs to be seen in the context of ongoing economic and political rivalry between China and the USA, as Washington pursues plans to create a new regional free trade and investment agreement by joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

last update: May 2012


How will Senkaku dispute affect 3-nation FTA?
The friction over the Senkaku islands, which China calls the Diaoyu Islands, is starting to cast a dark shadow over the direction of the FTA negotiations between Japan, China and South Korea. The Asahi Shimbun asked two experts for their opinions on the matter.
S. Korea says Japan free trade talks ‘difficult’ due to tensions
South Korea said resuming negotiations with Japan over a free trade agreement will be difficult given a maritime territorial spat.
S. Korea, China make headway in FTA talks
South Korea and China have made progress in their free trade talks with both countries agreeing on removing tariffs on products within 10 years after the implementation of their free trade accord, Seoul’s trade ministry said Monday.
S. Korea’s economic reliance on China deepens
Who will catch a cold if China sneezes? As was recently shown, the U.S., European and other major economies are not insulated to a slowdown in the Chinese economy. South Korea is also not an exemption to this phenomenon with its exposure to the world’s factory growing sharply over the past two decades.
Island visit may threaten trade; Officials fear effects of Takeshima trip on partnership talks with S. Korea
Fears have risen over the future of Japan-South Korea economic relations in the wake of South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s visit Friday to the Takeshima islands.
Korea, China to negotiate sensitive agricultural, industrial items separately
Korea and China have confirmed their basic positions on the bilateral free trade agreement, but have yet to reach an agreement on key issues such as the level of tariff concessions and the choice of sensitive and ultra-sensitive items.
S. Korean farmers rally against China trade talks
Thousands of South Korean farmers and fisherman protest against FTA talks with China
Japan ’eager’ to join trilateral FTA with China, South Korea
Japan is becoming increasingly “eager” to join a free trade agreement (FTA) with China and South Korea while it is unable to join a broader Asian trade pact, and as Beijing and Seoul began negotiations on an agreement, said the ministry of commerce.
S. Korea’s reluctance clouds FTA / Domestic resistance throws prospects for trilateral trade pact into doubt
Despite an agreement to launch talks on a three-way free trade agreement this year, Japan, China and South Korea have different priorities, leaving the prospects for their trilateral trade initiative unclear.
E. Asian powers’ 3-way FTA talks to have twists and turns
The leaders of Japan, China and South Korea announced Sunday that the countries will launch negotiations for a trilateral free trade agreement by the end of this year. But the prospects are far from rosy.