A fresh round of negotiations for a three-way free trade agreement (FTA) between South Korea, China and Japan ended Friday without a clear breakthrough although the South Korean side said the talks were productive.
"There were active discussions on the scope of market liberalization at this round of talks under a consensus between the three countries that the proposed South Korea-China-Japan FTA should be a comprehensive free trade deal for the establishment of the framework for a regional bloc," South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a press release.
The latest round, the fifth of its kind since the negotiations were launched in late 2012, was held in Beijing.
Negotiators from South Korea and China have said the countries were seeking to conclude their negotiations before the end of next year.
The latest round, however, ended with no apparent breakthrough.
"In the areas of products, services and investment, there were active discussions on the modality (guidelines) for market access and market liberalization, but the countries again confirmed the existence of a gap between the three countries," the ministry said.
"They agreed to further accelerate their negotiations aimed at removing such differences of opinion," it added.
The next round of three-way FTA talks will be held in November in Japan.
The three countries together make up about 20 percent of global gross domestic product and about 17.5 percent of global trade.
South Korea is also holding separate talks for a bilateral FTA with China, the world's largest importer of South Korean products.
Separate negotiations for a bilateral FTA with Japan have been suspended since late 2004 partly due to Tokyo's reluctance to open its market for agriculture products. (Yonhap)