Others Trade Agreement Could Boost Relations 2012.05.14

(Source from China Daily updated on 2012-05-14 08:04)

A free-trade agreement among China, Japan and the Republic of Korea would be a major achievement in trilateral economic integration, but it needs thorough preparation, said a top official from a regional inter-governmental organization. 
Negotiations among the countries were expected to begin before the annual summit, but were delayed by Seoul's reluctance, Kyodo News cited a senior official in Tokyo as saying. The parties agreed to hold talks on the agreement by the end of the year. 
"The important thing is that all three parties agreed to start negotiations. Whether they start tomorrow or some other time within this year is not so important," Shin Bong-kil, the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat's secretary-general, said on Saturday in an exclusive interview with China Daily. 
"We have studied this project (the FTA) for the last 10 years, and we need some more patience. The three countries have differences in their approaches to the negotiations, but mostly they agree on the necessity," he said. 
Shin and his team from the TCS were in Beijing for the fifth trilateral summit meeting. 
They also participated in the last meeting, which was held in September in the ROK, where the three countries also discussed FTA negotiations. 
"We also talked about the TCS' role. Basically, they agree that we should explore more possibilities of active participation in this process," he said. 
Established eight months ago, the TCS is an inter-governmental organization that aims to systematically push forward trilateral cooperation, Shin said. 
"As a representative of the TCS, I naturally support the trilateral FTA. I think it will bring trilateral cooperation as a whole to a new high level," Shin said. 
An FTA would create more opportunities for bigger trade and investment among the three countries, he added. Shin also said that he believed a trade agreement would certainly affect the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and push it to open up. 
One of the major problems in FTA negotiations is the gaps in development among the three countries, Shin said. "It will take quite a long time to reach an agreement. An immediate resolution is not possible. But it is the will of solving the problems that has pushed these countries together." 
Earlier this month, during a meeting of financial ministers from 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries and China, Japan and the ROK (10+3), the group agreed to double the size of their foreign reserve pool, the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization program, to $240 billion to shield the region from global financial risks. 
China, Japan and the ROK also agreed at the same meeting on May 3 to increase cross-investment in government bond markets, worth nearly $15 trillion, to better protect themselves in the global financial market.