Senior officials of Japan, China and South Korea have started talks Monday in Japan on a three-way free trade pact following their leaders’ agreement to seek an early conclusion of a deal.
At the five-day, director-general-level talks, the three neighboring countries will try to set a framework of negotiations and plans on how to proceed with their discussions before they deal with sensitive issues such as tariffs on agricultural products.
The ninth round of discussions in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, west of Tokyo, comes after the three nations’ leaders vowed in early November to speed up negotiations over a free trade agreement encompassing 20 percent of the global economy.
China and South Korea have already agreed on a bilateral free trade deal, while Japan along with 11 other countries recently concluded a Pacific Rim trade initiative called the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty.
South Korea and some other Asian nations have shown interest in joining the TPP, while China is more cautious about taking part in the Pacific Rim accord, which calls for the reform of state-owned companies.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India have also been negotiating for a broader trade pact known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
A Japanese government source said Tokyo aims for higher-standard rules for the trilateral trade accord than those of the deal reached between China and South Korea.