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South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said that the fourth round will continue the progress set in motion when the FTA was initiated in 2011, and focus on issues of goods, services, investment, competition, general rules and intellectual property rights.
Although the three countries have come to realize that trade and economic exchange between them benefits the group – their combined GDP is estimated at $14.3 trillion and their cumulative import/export volume is 35 per cent of the world total – territorial and historical disputes remain obstacles to greater cooperation.
Grievances dating back to Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula and parts of China have caused a delay in Japan signing bilateral agreements with its two partners – a step that is necessary to concluding a trilateral FTA.
China and South Korea have condemned Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine last month that honours war dead including convicted war criminals.
Seoul announced it was furious with the “deplorable” act, and Beijing labelled the visit “absolutely unacceptable” and summoned Japan’s ambassador.
Rising territorial tensions over disputed islands in the East China Sea have also slowed considerably China and Japan’s bilateral talks amid enflamed nationalist passions.
The tensions have impacted bilateral trade.
While China’s trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), its third-largest trading partner, rose 10.9 per cent year on year to $443.6 billion, it contracted by 5.1 per cent year on year, with Japan to $312.55.
Seoul has also filed complaints with Beijing over what it says are illegal fishing violations.
Although the two countries have agreed to remove nearly 90 per cent of tariffs between them, Seoul says it will use next week’s venue to press home the issue of more than 4,000 Chinese boats illegally fishing in South Korean waters over the course of nine years.