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Nosova Irina A. The Triangle Project: Prospects for China-Japan-ROK FTA Печать E-mail
20.11.2013 г.

The Triangle Project: Prospects for China-Japan-ROK FTA 

Irina A. Nosova

The paper examines Tokyo's policy toward the Northeast Asia free trade area including China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (hereinafter - CJK FTA). Interest in this integration project in Japan is primarily associated with the unprecedented scale of the FTA that is being created: in 2010, China, Japan and South Korea accounted for 10.4 %, 5.1% and 3.1% of world exports and for 9.1%, 4.5% and 2.8% of world imports respectively, and its potential impact on the regional economy. At the same time, work on the project reveals the overall approach of Japan to the accelerating processes of economic integration in the Asia Pacific region.

CJK FTA is Japan's only integration project of nearly fifteen years' experience. It illustrates how complex is the task of harmonizing trade regimes of strong economic players whose interests are in many cases contradictory. Experts seek to orient the parties on setting up the deepest and most comprehensive free trade area, covering, in so far as possible, the entire range of trade and economic relations between Japan, China, and South Korea. However, the final outcome of the negotiations on the FTA is difficult to predict at this time. The negotiation process will be affected by such factors as the individual priorities of Japan, China, and South Korea in an ​​economic integration, and the presence of interest groups, political tensions in the "triangle," and the position of foreign players, the United States in the first place.

Nor can one exclude the possibility that Japan regards its participation in the negotiations on CJK FTA (as well as other major regional projects) as just the next phase in realizing its fundamental course to expand its network of agreements on free trade zones. Such a scenario may indicate that Tokyo foresees a further erosion of the multilateral trading system and the concomitant weakening of the status of the WTO as its legal base. Regional negotiations in such conditions become a convenient and understandable alternative for the Japanese, while plurilateral//multilateral integration projects feature as a new incubator to develop universal "rules of the game" of global trade.
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