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TRADE WARS
Japan, China, S. Korea to start FTA talks: reports
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 15, 2012


Japan, China and South Korea will hold ministerial discussions next week and are expected to agree on the launch of three-way free trade talks, media reports said Thursday.

The meeting will be held on Tuesday on the sidelines of an East Asia summit in Cambodia, public broadcaster NHK said, despite a spike in tensions between Tokyo and its neighbours over two separate territorial disputes.

Japan is expected to be represented by trade minister Yukio Edano at the meeting, Kyodo news agency reported.

Top leaders from the three East Asian powers are seeking to formally announce the start of talks on a trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) by the year-end when they huddle in Cambodia next week, the reports said.

But there are no plans for a customary Japan-China-South Korea summit on the sidelines of the East Asian get-together, a Japanese diplomat said on Wednesday.

Beijing and Tokyo are squabbling over the sovereignty of an archipelago in the East China Sea, while Japan and South Korea are in dispute over who owns a pair of islands in waters between the two countries.

Another official at the Japanese foreign ministry told AFP Thursday he could neither confirm nor deny the reports of talks next week.

But he recalled that the top leaders from Japan, China and South Korea basically agreed at a summit in Beijing last May to launch the FTA talks by the end of this year.

He said officials from the three countries had completed three rounds of working-level preparatory consultations on the FTA plan.

"Japan for its part will continue preparing for a formal announcement to start the FTA talks within this year," he said.

Japan, China and South Korea depend on each other for about 20-30 percent of their external trade, according to the business daily Nikkei.

If the trilateral FTA is concluded with the easing of tariffs on manufactured and other goods, Japan's exports are expected to increase by 60 billion dollars, Nikkei said.

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