MOSCOW, November 23 (Sputnik) — Japan, South Korea and mainland China are set to conduct the sixth round of negotiations for a trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) in the upcoming week, after a bilateral FTA was agreed upon between Seoul and Beijing in mid-November.
The new agreement will be negotiated in Tokyo during a five day session starting Monday, according to a Yonhap News report. The previous round of talks took place in Beijing in September, and ended with little success. The discussions of the proposed FTA were launched in November 2012.
South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy stated that the three nations are expected to achieve significant advances in the negotiation process, as scores of Asian-Pacific countries have recently focused on the development of multiple regional FTAs.
"In the past five rounds of negotiations, the three countries held discussions on various issues from products, services and investment to competition, intellectual property rights, the environment and regulations," the Korean ministry said as quoted by the Korea Times.
China is pushing to finalize trade liberalization with its neighbors, as a direct counter to the US-proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP is expected to be implemented as early as 2015, after having been finally approved by Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe. The multilateral TPP explicitly excludes China, which makes the latter particularly eager to sign trade deals with as many Asia-Pacific nations as possible.
"At the upcoming round, the three countries will focus on market liberalization for products, services and investment," the Korean ministry said.
The sixth round of trilateral Japan-China-Korea negotiations comes two weeks after the China-Korea FTA was concluded in Beijing between Chinese leader XI Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun-hye on November 10. South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has also stressed the importance of strengthening economic ties between Seoul and Beijing.
"The government will continue to actively take part in the Korea-China-Japan FTA negotiations, as well as other discussions on creating a regional economic bloc such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership while maintaining their consistency with the Korea-China FTA," the ministry said.
The negotiations for an FTA between Seoul and Tokyo have slowly been progressing since 2004, however, Japan’s reluctance to open its agricultural market for more imports has been the principal obstacle. Now, as Japan is planning on joining the TPP, a trade deal including Seoul and Tokyo is not so far fetched anymore.
The trilateral Japan-South Korea-China trade pact is expected to be signed in 2015 and to take effect sometime later that same year. Simultaneously, South Korea is seeking to join the RCEP talks, which is a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, another proposed FTA to include nations of Asia and Oceania from India to Japan, from China to New Zealand.