Talks to start on FTA with China, Japan in March

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Talks to start on FTA with China, Japan in March

Korea will launch negotiations on a trilateral free trade pact with China and Japan in March, the trade ministers of the three countries announced yesterday.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy is now set to embark on firming up two huge free trade deals, one of which would create the world’s third-largest free market if it is realized.

The trade ministers of the three Asian neighbors agreed on a start date for the FTA talks on the sidelines of annual summits now being held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

“Korea will work with the other two Northeast Asian countries in a way that protects products we consider sensitive,” an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

According to the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), such a pact would help Korea’s GDP rise 1.45 percent within a decade of being implemented.

It has taken almost a decade to get the negotiations off the ground since a trilateral deal was first discussed in 2003.

If it is realized, Korea would become part of a $14.3 trillion market, the world’s third-largest after the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and the European Union (EU), according to the Trade Ministry.

The second large-scale trade deal in the pipeline is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which concerns 16 countries in the Asia-Pacific region including Korea, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India and 10 Asean countries.

The countries declared yesterday that they will start working-level negotiations from next year through 2015 with a goal of inking an agreement by 2016.

By Song Su-hyun [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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