Korea, Japan leaders on same page

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Korea, Japan leaders on same page

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Business leaders joined hands on Wednesday in the promise of closer economic cooperation at the opening ceremony of the 47th Korea-Japan Business Conference in Seoul. Provided by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy

As the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties approaches in June, Korean and Japanese business leaders gathered in Seoul on Wednesday and Thursday to call for stronger cooperation to strengthen each other’s position in the sluggish global economy.

The 47th Korea-Japan Business Conference, an annual event started in 1969 and jointly hosted by the Korea-Japan Economic Association and its Japanese counterpart, explored the theme of economic cooperation during the next five decades.

The conference ended Thursday with a joint statement to strengthen cooperation - despite frozen political and diplomatic ties due to historical issues - in trade, finance, ICT, new overseas markets, R&D projects and talent exchanges. The cooperation is intended to address issues both countries face, such as low economic growth and rapidly aging societies.

“Businesspeople in both countries agreed to cooperate closely, urging the two nations to form one united economic bloc to start an era of mutual growth and prosperity,” the statement said.

Cooperation measures discussed included Korea joining the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Japan joined in 2013.

The Korean government has yet to express interest in joining the group. Many trade analysts attribute this to Korea’s indecisiveness about its trade relationships with the United States and China. Korea’s FTA with China has yet to take effect.

Japanese businesspeople expressed support for Korea joining the TPP.

“The United States should reach a consensus to domestically pass the TPP act and complete negotiations among the 12 founding members by June,” said Hidetoshi Kamezaki, a corporate adviser of Mitsubishi Corporation and member of the APEC Business Advisory Council, at a panel discussion held before signing the statement.

Kamezaki explained that the decision to welcome Korea into the mega-FTA could be delayed if negotiations extend past the June deadline, as the United States will hold its presidential election next year.

He also emphasized the significance of the trilateral China-Korea-Japan trade agreement, but said negotiations for a Korea-Japan FTA should be resumed first.

“The bilateral agreement should take place before the trilateral FTA,” he said. “But I do wish trilateral negotiations progress soon, which will expedite the integration of the whole East Asian economy.”

At a Blue House meeting with Japanese business delegates on Wednesday, President Park Geun-hye expressed hope the two countries will be on the same side when it comes to mega-trade agreements, which would mean wider business opportunities in new markets.

Park didn’t specifically mention the TPP, but said she hoped to see progress in the trilateral talks.

Conference participants said exchanges of young talent and joint R&D projects will become one of the most significant methods of economic cooperation, helping the two countries find new profit engines and escape low growth.

Participants also emphasized the need for cooperation in the transportation payment, banking and card industries. The idea of setting up a common currency among Korea, Japan and China to create an East Asian economic bloc also was discussed.

The leaders agreed to explore possible joint business projects in areas like natural resource development, infrastructure construction, and the medical and senior care services industries.


BY KIM JI-YOON [kim.jiyoon@joongang.co.kr]
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