Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The leaders of China, South Korea
have agreed to begin negotiating a free trade zone among the three countries. The
summit taking place yesterday and today, should, in the words of Chinese
Premier Wen Jiabao, "unleash the economic vitality of the region and give
a strong impetus to economic integration of Eastern Asia."
Wen, his Japanese counterpart Yoshihiko Noda, and Korean President Lee Myung Bak have also signed a trilateral agreement for mutual investments, as a first step towards economic integration, which should - in the words of Noda - make "the Asia-Pacific a center of world growth. "
The leaders emphasized that the idea of a free trade zone is urgent because of the economic crisis in the European Union and the United States, global protectionist policies, and the "unstable elements" that will last a long time.
The area would create a market of over 1.5 billion people. According to Xinhua, it would boost China's GDP by 3% , Korean by 3.1, and Japanese by 0.5. The Korean Ministry of Commerce estimates that the proposal will create at least 300 thousand new jobs in Korea. The annual volume of trade between the three countries has already reached 690 billion U.S. dollars in 2011 and in 1999 it was only 130 billion.
But there are several difficulties to overcome. First widespread distrust and enmity between the three countries, since the invasion of China and Korea by Japan, the Korean War, in which Beijing supported the North and the current strong economic competition.
According to analysts, the three countries have many industries that compete in the same field, such as automotive and agriculture industries, and these may be difficult to integrate. In addition, the proposal could also face a similar one made by the United States, which is pushing for a Trans-Pacific Partnership, towards which Japan has shown interest, unlike China and South Korea.
China has already signed free trade agreements with 10 economies, including New Zealand and Singapore and is negotiating agreements with Iceland, Norway and Colombia.
The three leaders also agreed not to increase tension in the region and particularly on the Korean peninsula.
Lee Myung Bak said that the three nations will not accept "any further nuclear tests or new provocations."