"Some negative factors should be overcome before establishing the China-South Korea-Japan FTA. In recent years, Washington has drawn some Asian countries to join the TPP. It attempts to disturb the deepening progress of East Asian cooperation, and bring East Asian countries into the U.S. strategic orbit," said Ren of the CICIR.
Against this backdrop, Japan finds itself in an awkward situation, he said. On the one hand, its economy relies heavily on the Chinese market. On the other hand, it follows the step of the United States to hedge against China. "This is bad for regional cooperation and Sino-Japanese relations," Ren said. "Japan should give up its contradictory policies, eliminate political barriers and cooperate with China to promote East Asian integration."
As the largest economy in the region that links Northeast Asia with Southeast Asia, China should play a leading role in the trilateral FTA, he said. It should also help promote broader East Asian cooperation that involves Mongolia, Russia, North Korea and ASEAN countries.
"There will be a period of time from the launching of official negotiations to the establishment of the trilateral FTA. During free trade negotiations, exporters want importers to reduce or exempt custom duties on all their outward cargo, but importers want to be selective to protect their vulnerable industries," Liu said.
Japan is a developed country, South Korea is a newly industrialized country and China is a developing country. Given their vast economic differences, the three countries will have to conduct extensive economic restructuring to facilitate free trade, a process that may encounter resistance by various sectors of society.
Also, the three countries might set preconditions to protect their own interests. As a result, the negotiations could take a long time. Even if the trilateral FTA starts to operate, it needs 10 to 20 years to become as sophisticated as an advanced FTA with low tariffs, free flow of goods, services and people as well as an effective legal framework on intellectual property rights protection, said Liu.
At the Fifth Trilateral Summit Meeting Among China, South Korea and Japan in Beijing on May 13, the three countries reached a series of agreements, of which the highlights are as follow:
- Advancing cooperation in non-traditional security issues, such as piracy, energy security, cyber security, communicable diseases, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
- Launching trilateral free trade agreement negotiations within this year;
- Welcoming the signing of the Trilateral Agreement for the Promotion, Facilitation and Protection of Investment;
- Promoting investment by foreign reserve authorities in one another's government bonds;
- Strengthening cooperation in dealing with dust and sandstorms, tackling trans-boundary air pollution, the access and benefit sharing of genetic resources and the exchange of environmental protection technologies;
- Promoting cooperation in agriculture, sustainable forest management, combating desertification and wildlife conservation;
- Further easing visa requirements and expanding sister/friendship city exchanges to achieve the target of 26 million tourist visits among the three countries by 2015; and
- Supporting ASEAN's leading role in East Asian cooperation and make joint efforts to help the development of ASEAN countries.
(Source: China's Foreign Ministry)
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