South Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo, Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan and Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama had a meeting in Beijing on Dec. 22. They adopted a joint statement to finalize the three countries’ regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) next year and proceed with negotiations for a high-level free trade agreement (FTA).
In addition, they agreed to work together to protect the multilateral trade scheme led by the WTO and strengthen their cooperation in multilateral frameworks such as APEC and G20. They are going to further cooperate in the e-commerce industry based on the joint research results submitted at the meeting.
The meeting covered cooperation for energy conversion, Industry 4.0 technology and new business to solve aging-related problems as well as trade cooperation. The previous, 11th, meeting of the three ministers took place in Tokyo in October 2016 and the next meeting will be in Seoul.
The three ministers concluded the RCEP agreement last month and reconfirmed their cooperation in one month to mitigate their damage attributable to the Donald Trump administration’s America First policy. The three Asian countries started their FTA negotiations in as early as 2013, but the talks have shown little progress due to various sensitive issues. What they are trying to do now is to seek a way out based on more intra-regional trade with the United States’ trade offensive against China significantly affecting the entire global economy.
It is in this regard that the South Korean and Chinese ministers had a one-to-one meeting before the trilateral meeting. There, the two countries, which have taken a direct hit from U.S. trade protectionism, agreed to expand their collaboration in the manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors alike. In this context, they are going to continue with service and investment negotiations for their FTA and launch a series of joint projects in third markets.