China-South Korea-Japan FTA talks may accelerate as industry chain risks disruption

By Ma Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/25 21:28:40

Regional FTA talks may accelerate as industry chain risks disruption

Containers to be loaded on vessels for export at Qingdao Port in East China's Shandong Province on November 5 Photo: IC

The next round of China-Japan-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA) talks is expected to be held in mid-2020 and the event is unlikely to be affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak, a trade expert said. 

The rise in confirmed COVID19 infections in South Korea has sparked concerns that the industrial supply chain in East Asia would be disrupted.

Chinese business resumption delays in February has caused some manufacturers in South Korea and Japan to suspend production, but as more than 900 COVID-19 cases were reported in South Korea by Tuesday and Japan warned of a possible sweeping virus spread in the country, worries arose that disrupted component supplies may take a toll on regional economy.

Faced with the common economic challenge, the three countries may accelerate FTA talks to reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers to allow more trade, Liang Ming, a research fellow of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The next round of FTA negotiations is expected to be held in middle 2020 in Beijing or Tokyo, given the schedules of the last rounds of talks, Shen Minghui, secretary-general of the Center for APEC and East Asian Cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"If this is the case, the event will unlikely be affected by the novel coronavirus, which seems to be put under strict control in China," Shen said, noting that the next round of talks may also focus on trade in goods, services, investment and other RCEP relevant issues.

With the first round of talks starting in 2013, the 16th round was carried out in Seoul at the end of November 2019. The three vowed to speed up negotiations on the agreement in a statement released during the eighth annual meeting of the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea in December 2019.

China is willing to cooperate with Japan and South Korea to take appropriate and necessary measures to effectively cut cross-border spread of the virus, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

"The three countries should enhance economic cooperation, as manufacturing in one country may be impeded if companies in another halt operations," Liang said. 

He said the three countries should actively communicate with one another at this special time via channels like phone calls to guarantee companies in key industrial chains remain in operation while ensuring safety.

Newspaper headline: Regional FTA talks may accelerate as industry chain risks disruption


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