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Chinese official says obstacles remain for establishment of China-Japan-ROK free trade zone

(Xinhua)

10:06, September 06, 2011

CHANGCHUN, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Insufficient mutual trust and the protection of sensitive industries remain two major obstacles for China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) to establish a trilateral free trade zone, a Chinese commerce official said on Monday.

Since 2002, the three Asian neighbors have mulled over the creation of a free trade zone that would encompass a market of almost 1.5 billion people.

"In light of the trend of international cooperation, it is necessary for China, Japan and the ROK to establish such a free trade zone. And now, all conditions are ripe on the whole," said Chen Zhou, director of the Department of Asian Affairs under the Ministry of Commerce, at the ongoing 7th China Jilin Northeast Asia Investment and Trade Expo.

But before realizing the zone, the three countries need to further enhance mutual trust and create an atmosphere of expanding mutual economic cooperation, Chen said.

He added that each nation has certain industries it wants to protect.

Japan and the ROK are sensitive toward their agricultural industries, while China is concerned over technology-intensive manufacturing industries.

Disagreements also remain over the opening-up of investment areas, Chen said.

Officials have said the three countries are expected to start negotiations on the establishment of a trilateral free trade zone next year, and a research report will be finished by the end of the year and submitted to heads of the three governments.

During a visit to Japan in May, Premier Wen Jiabao said that China is willing to push forward the negotiations with the greatest sincerity.

Currently, China is the biggest trading partner for both Japan and the ROK. In 2010, China-Japan trade reached nearly 300 billion U.S. dollars, while China-ROK trade totaled over 200 billion U.S. dollars, both of which reached new highs.

Japan and the ROK are China's major sources of foreign investment. They have established nearly 100,000 companies in China with an accumulative investment of 120 billion U.S. dollars.

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