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Trade groups urge FTA among S. Korea, China, Japan

Yonhap News, Korea

Trade groups urge FTA among S. Korea, China, Japan

3 June 2011

SEOUL, June 3 (Yonhap) — Major trade organizations of South Korea, China and Japan urged their governments Friday to quickly sign a three-way free trade agreement (FTA) to strengthen their economic cooperation.

"Early conclusion of negotiations for a South Korea-China-Japan FTA will help create a breakthrough for economic integration," said Oh Young-ho, vice chairman of the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).

"As seen in an outlook that ASEAN plus the three countries will become the world’s largest market in 2020, we are approaching an era of East Asia, but the countries are facing limits due to a lack of driving force for integration."

ASEAN refers to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Oh’s remarks came at the inaugural meeting of the Korea-Japan-China Economic Trade Forum, jointly organized and attended by the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE) and a Japanese private think tank, the Japan-China Organization for Business, Academia and Government Partnership.

The forum was also attended by some 30 scholars and experts from the three countries, urging quick signing of the envisioned tripartite FTA.

Bi Jiyao, director of foreign economic institute of the Chinese think tank CCIEE, said an FTA between the three Northeast Asian countries will help significantly expand trade in the region.

A joint government study of the three countries on the feasibility of a three-way FTA has been underway since it was launched last year.

Bi noted the heads of the three countries agreed to conclude the feasibility study and begin negotiations for the regional trade deal at an early date.

South Korea is currently considering signing separate and bilateral FTAs with China and Japan.

Oh, speaking at a joint press conference with Bi and president of the Japanese think tank Fukukawa Shinji, said it was up to the government to decide which FTA will be pursued and signed first, but that a three-way deal with China and Japan will be far more beneficial than bilateral agreements with the countries.