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3-way cooperation ‘critically’ important’ to region’s success

Zhang Yunbi
Updated: Oct 31,2015 9:40 AM     China Daily

Yang Houlan, a veteran Chinese diplomat who now chairs an organization that coordinates trilateral cooperation between China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, has called for the acceleration of FTA negotiations in order to better boost economic integration in East Asia.

Yang, the secretary-general of the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat, stressed the point in an interview with China Daily days ahead of a weekend meeting of the leaders of the three countries.

The diplomat noted that Europe’s integration could be taken as example: “Without the cooperation among major European countries, including Britain, Germany and France, there would not have been the achievement and development of the European Union today.”

Yang believes that maintaining interaction of the major Asian countries-China, Japan and the ROK-”is critically important to the building of the original partnership and advancing the integration of East Asia”.

Much economic progress has been made by the three countries in the past decades, and as of the end of 2014 their combined annual GDP reached $16 trillion, accounting for 21 percent of global GDP. Their combined imports and exports hit $7 trillion, 20 percent of the global total in 2014, and the three neighbors enacted an investment treaty in May 2014.

As for the ongoing negotiations over the trilateral free trade agreement, Yang said “all three governments have displayed a political readiness to conclude the negotiations at an early date”.

Prior to their summit, an economic and trade ministers’ meeting will be held in Seoul on Oct 30 to discuss deepening economic and trade cooperation among the three countries.

“It is expected that through this meeting, the three countries will send positive and clear signals to the outside world regarding an early conclusion of the China-Japan-ROK free-trade agreement negotiation,” Yang said.

Yang also noted the recent conclusion of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, led by the United States.

“The China-Japan-ROK free trade zone should catch up in order to contribute to the economic integration of East Asia and shape a regional economic landscape of openness, inclusiveness and win-win,” he said.

The rapid economic growth of Asia, especially East Asia, has served as an important driver of global economic development, Yang said.

“Asia’s prosperity and stability today is hard-won. This could be attributed to efforts by all the countries, and also the important contribution made by the flourishing regional cooperative mechanisms.”

The year 2015 has witnessed countries jointly advancing the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative, and ASEAN is set to establish the first sub-regional community in Asia-the ASEAN Community-before the year ends, Yang noted.

The success of the weekend leaders’ meeting will be conducive to the improvement of relationships among the trio, deepening their cooperation and boosting integration in East Asia, Yang said.

As part of his suggestion for strengthening cooperation of the three countries, Yang called upon them to address the absence of political mutual trust and properly tackle their divergences.

The ambassador also listed promising aspects for boosting trade, such as energy, improved emissions, industry serving the elderly population, environmental protection and connectivity.