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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
Photo: KOREA.NET - Official page of the Republic of Korea / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Trilateral FTA talks likely to be delayed
Although Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo are discussing beginning negotiations on a trilateral free trade agreement (FTA), domestic procedures will make it difficult to start talks within this year.
1st round of FTA talks with China due May 10
Korea will hold its first round of negotiations with China on the bilateral free trade agreement next Thursday in Beijing, Seoul’s Trade Ministry said Friday.
Seoul to limit fallout of China FTA on farm sector
South Korea will draw up safeguard measures to minimise the fallout of a free trade agreement (FTA) with China on its farming sector, the Seoul government said.
Kaesong Complex could be given special status
South Korea and China have agreed to designate the Kaesong Industrial Complex an outward processing zone (OPZ). The agreement was made shortly before the two countries’ trade ministers declared the opening of negotiations for a South Korea-China free trade agreement (FTA).
Long, bumpy road to FTA with China
Trade minister Park Tae-ho has declared the opening of free trade agreement negotiations with China, but a rough road lies ahead. In addition to concerns about the major blow an FTA would deal to the domestic agriculture and fishing sectors and small manufacturers, questions are also being raised about the economic effects of recent FTAs with the European Union and United States.
Free trade plans with China announced
On May 2, South Korea and China formally announced the beginning of negotiations toward a bilateral free trade agreement.
Agriculture at risk under FTA with China
Major concerns about a potential South Korea-China free trade agreement are already being voiced by the agriculture community and small manufacturers.
Korea-China FTA moving forward
On April 17 and 18, ahead of the proclamation of the beginning of negotiations for a China-Korea FTA, economic and diplomatic experts from both countries gathered in Seoul and discussed methods of drafting the FTA.
Japan to consider free trade agreement with China: sources
The Japanese government has decided to consider negotiating for a free trade agreement with China as prospects for a trilateral accord with China and South Korea have become grimmer due to Seoul’s opposition for fear of a rise in imports from Japan, trade sources said Wednesday.
China-ROK FTA ’makes a larger cake’
Beijing and Seoul’s positions have been "reasoned and well communicated" as they prepare for formal negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement that is expected soon, Kim Min-cheol, one of Seoul’s major negotiators, said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.