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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

Korea, China, Japan to conclude investment pact after 5 years
Five years of negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty among Korea, China and Japan will be concluded at the 13th round of talks in Tokyo Tuesday. The agreement covers protection of intellectual property rights and liberalization of investment.
Farmers’ fight of China FTA could be biggest yet
When Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade attempted to hold a first public hearing last Friday to listen to concerns about an FTA with China, farmers shut it down.
S. Korea seeks to guard ’sensitive industries’ in China FTA
South Korea plans to fully consider potential fallout for "sensitive industries" that may be hurt if a free trade agreement (FTA) with China is reached, a senior government policymaker said Friday.
’Rice, sesame, garlic to be excluded from China FTA’
Rice and key condiments such as garlic and sesame are expected to be excluded from free trade agreement (FTA) talks with China, which are set to start soon.
In-depth look at economic effects of Korea-China FTA
Korea’s agriculture market is expected to be flooded with fresh farm products from China, that are much cheaper than domestically-produced fruits and vegetables, says Zheng Hwan-woo, research fellow Korea Int’l Trade Association
S. Korea to start domestic procedures to launch FTA talks with China
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao that Seoul will soon begin domestic procedures for the start of formal negotiations with Beijing on forging a bilateral free trade agreement, a presidential official said Monday.
Japan, China, S. Korea to kick off FTA talks
Japan, China and South Korea are expected to start negotiations for a trilateral free trade agreement in the first half of this year, possibly in May, a Chinese newspaper reported Monday.
Japan, China, S. Korea conclude joint study on FTA
Japan, China and South Korea on Friday concluded a joint study on the possibility of signing a trilateral free trade accord, laying the groundwork for launching official negotiations as early as next summer.
Noda to prod ROK on FTAs
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will likely urge South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement between the two countries plus China, when Lee visits Tokyo this weekend, top Democratic Party of Japan policymaker Seiji Maehara said Wednesday.
TPP may affect China’s possible FTA with S. Korea, Japan: scholar
An envisioned regional free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific may affect China’s possible free trade agreements with South Korea and Japan, giving the world’s No. 2 economy less bargaining power, a Chinese scholar said Thursday.