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East Asia Nations Seek Regional Trading Pact

BEIJING (AP): The three largest East Asian economies agreed Sunday to find ways to strengthen regional trading ties and to work together to ease political tensions in the area.The countries — China, South Korea and Japan — said they would begin negotiations to establish a free trade area that could help the region recover from a global slowdown.

In addition, Premier Wen Jiabao of China, President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan agreed that their countries would work together to try to calm tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with Mr. Lee saying that any further provocations from North Korea would be unacceptable.

A failed rocket launch by North Korea last month drew sanctions from the United Nations Security Council, and there are fears that Pyongyang is preparing to conduct its third nuclear test. China — a permanent member of the Security Council — is North Korea’s closest diplomatic ally.

“The pressing task is to try our best to prevent tensions on the Korean Peninsula from escalating,” Mr. Wen said. He urged all parties to “return to the right track of dialogue and negotiations.”

Mr. Noda said Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul should work together to try to prevent further provocations by North Korea.

The summit meeting — which followed a meeting among the three nations’ economic and trade ministers — also saw the signing of an investment agreement, paving the way for the setup of a free trade area among the three nations. Negotiations are expected to begin by the end of the year.

The initiative comes amid a slow global economic recovery.

Mr. Wen said the regional pact — which exists in several other parts of the world — would benefit the East Asian countries at a time of rising trade protectionism.

Trade among the three countries grew to $690 billion in 2011, and China is the biggest trade partner for both South Korea and Japan, according to a Chinese government report on the three-nation relationship.

The investment agreement — the first such document among the three nations — will stimulate further investment and promote additional trade, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said in a statement.

Published Date: Sunday, May 13th, 2012 | 02:25 AM

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