Korea, China, Japan agree on basic rules for FTA talks

By Korea Herald

Published : Mar 28, 2013 - 20:05
Updated : Mar 28, 2013 - 20:05

Having confirmed their common demand for an economic, social and political unity, Korea, China and Japan agreed to add momentum to their tripartite free trade agreement talks.

The trade representatives of the three Northeast Asian states met in Seoul for the first time to discuss concluding a trilateral free trade pact and held negotiations for three days until Thursday.

“Through this first official round, we set up a set of terms of reference, including the basic principles of the upcoming negotiations,” said Choi Kyung-lim, Korea’s chief FTA negotiator and assistant deputy minister of trade.

Choi’s counterparts in the talks were Chinese assistant commerce minister Yu Jianhua and Japanese deputy foreign minister for economic affairs Koji Tsuruoka.

According to the terms of reference, the three-way trade pact is to incorporate all areas of trade, from manufactured products, to service and investment.

“It is possible that new categories such as labor may be added to the list in the future, upon the consent of all three countries,” the FTA chief said.

As for intellectual property and electronic commerce, the parties will first discuss the issue in an expert forum before deciding whether or not to include them on the agenda, he said.

Further details of the trade pact are yet to be designed, but Choi pledged to protect the local market, especially the agriculture, fisheries and livestock industries, from Chinese competition.

“In the bilateral FTA talks with China, we are holding on to the rule of specifying all items which are to be excluded from the tariff cuts before initiating the actual negotiations,” he said.

“This could be an example of preventing possible economic harm to our agricultural industry.”

The negotiator also said that he hopes to include an Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause in the trilateral FTA.

“Korea’s economic growth has largely been based on trade and this principle is still valid, despite the change of administration here,” Choi said.

The trade department, which was formerly affiliated with the Foreign Ministry, was recently moved to the Trade Ministry, based upon the new Park Geun-hye administration’s government reorganization plan.

The blueprint of the Korea-China-Japan FTA was first suggested in 2003 by the private economic sector, but it was only in November last year that the three governments officially declared the start of the free trade talks.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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