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Minister urges leading role in FTA talks with China, Japan

Yonhap News, Seoul

Minister urges leading role in FTA talks with China, Japan

25 July 2013

SEOUL— South Korea’s finance minister on Thursday called on the government to show leadership in negotiations with Japan and China for a three-way free trade agreement, noting the outcome of the negotiations may well determine the country’s status in Northeast Asia.

"As part of discussions on economic integration in Northeast Asia, the Korea-China-Japan FTA can be said to carry a great meaning not only in expanding economic cooperation between Northeast Asian countries but also in mitigating political and diplomatic tensions in the region," Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok said in a weekly meeting with economy-related ministers in Seoul.

"In addition, when considering that our economy works as a mediator among the three countries, I believe it is especially important for the country to offer a framework for the FTA that can equally represent the interest of all three countries," he added, according to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance.

Hyun’s remarks came as the three countries are set to hold a second round of negotiations for the trilateral FTA in Shanghai from Tuesday.

The three countries are also taking part in negotiations for what is known as the regional comprehensive economic partnership, a multilateral FTA that will include 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Seoul and Beijing are also seeking to sign a bilateral FTA. South Korea’s negotiations with Japan for a bilateral trade deal have stalled since 2004.

The finance minister, who concurrently serves as a deputy prime minister, also urged stepped up efforts to develop the Arctic.

"Nearly 40 percent of the area in the Arctic have melted over the past 40 years, having a great impact on the climate and environment, but also opening up new routes for shipping and making previously inaccessible oil and gas deposits and marine resources available for development," he said.

To this end, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries announced a set of measures to strengthen the country’s presence in the Arctic, which include an expansion of its research facility and program in the region, as well as a possible construction of its second icebreaker.

Turning to economic issues, the finance minister called for efforts to boost the country’s exports and economic growth in the second half.

A joint report from state-run think tanks, submitted to the weekly meeting of economic ministers Thursday, said the U.S. scaling down its quantitative easing will negatively affect the country’s economy in the second half, though the European financial crisis will only have a limited impact.

Hyun said he had stressed the need for the U.S. and other major economies to carefully implement their exit strategies and to give clear messages to the market in the recent meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 emerging and advanced economies.