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Special> 40th Anniversary of the Normalization of Sino-Japanese Relations> Featured Stories
UPDATED: May 21, 2012 NO. 21 MAY 24, 2012
Three's Company
China, South Korea and Japan consider free trade agreement
By Yu Lintao

Benefits for all

POPULAR BRAND: Customers visit the pavilion of South Korean information technology company Samsung Electronics during the 2012 China International TV Festival in Shenzhen on May 10 (CFP)

"Undoubtedly, the trilateral FTA will help the three countries with resource allocation and enable them to complement each other's advantages," said Zhang of the AMR.

Tariff reduction will stimulate demand in the three economies, increase trilateral trade volume, eliminate trade barriers, enlarge regional markets and push forward economic integration.

"The trilateral FTA will inject vigor to China's export sector. It can help export-oriented Chinese companies to reduce costs while boosting their motivation. In the process, more jobs will be created," Liu said.

"The economies of China, Japan and South Korea will become larger and larger, providing a huge market for the whole world. The international status of the three countries will rise together," Liu said.

Ren of the CICIR said the Japanese economy depends so much on China that the trilateral FTA means a lot for Japan.

"The impact of the international financial crisis, the violent earthquake last year and the decline of Japan's industrial advantage have made the Chinese market a life vest for many Japanese enterprises. About 100,000 Japanese enterprises survive mainly by relying on the Chinese market," Ren said.

While China, Japan and South Korea have yet to start talks on their trilateral FTA, China and South Korea launched negotiations on a bilateral FTA in May.

According to a report by the Japanese financial conglomerate Nomura Group, the potential bilateral FTA between China and South Korea could benefit the South Korean economy by increasing the nation's exports to China, and the bilateral FTA will increase South Korea's GDP by 3.7 percent in the long term.

The China-South Korea FTA can be a key step toward the establishment of the China-South Korea-Japan FTA, Zhang said.

Business is only part of the cooperation between the three countries. The trilateral relations also include sustainable development, security and cultural exchanges. The FTA can help build political trust, strengthen non-governmental exchanges and deepen friendly feelings of the people of the three countries, Liu said.

Regional impact

"When the China-South Korea-Japan free trade agreement is signed, an East Asian economic community will not be far away," Liu said.

He said the trilateral FTA will further promote the establishment of an FTA with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which will pave the way for an East Asian economic community.

The trilateral FTA will also provide economic guarantees for building a political and security regime to help ease regional tensions in Northeast Asia, analysts said.

"In history, there were several wars between France and Germany. However, after the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, the two countries began reconciliation and cooperation and to promote European integration," said Qu Xing, President of the China Institute of International Studies.

Qu believes the future China-South Korea-Japan FTA will push forward the settlement of problems left over from the past, such as the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and territorial disputes, and help the three countries strengthen cooperation on resource exploitation.

Liu of Tsinghua University echoed Qu's views. "The trilateral FTA will be conducive to a stable and peaceful Korean Peninsula because it can contribute to an open and peaceful development environment for the region," he said.

However, though it is a trilateral FTA, it is not merely a matter for the three countries. The United States is also affected by the process. South Korea began its official FTA negotiations with China after it signed a free trade agreement with the United States. And at the end of last year, Japan announced it will join negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which was originally launched by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore and is now supported by the United States.

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