South Korea, China and Japan on Sunday agreed to further “institutionalize” their trilateral cooperation to enhance mutual trust and regional stability by holding their summit on a regular basis and bolstering the role of their cooperation secretariat.
They also agreed to speed up their negotiations on a trilateral free trade deal and strengthen cooperation on electronic commerce, energy imports and an array of global issues including climate change and sustainable development.
These agreements were reached as South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held a trilateral summit in Seoul for the first time since the fifth summit in May 2012.
“In the joint declaration, we reaffirmed that the Trilateral Summit is to be held on a regular basis (as specified in the 2008 Joint Statement for Tripartite Partnership),” Park said during a joint press conference at Cheong Wa Dae.
“Based on the spirit of facing history squarely and advancing towards the future, we agreed to work together for regional peace and stability.”
Noting that the next trilateral summit will be held in Japan next year, Abe said that the agreement to “normalize” the three-way cooperation mechanism is a “very big” achievement.
“Japan, South Korea and China, these three nations share the big responsibility for regional peace and prosperity, and the international community’s stability,” he said. “Taking today’s discussions as a starting point, next year’s summit will produce many fruits.”
Li called multilateral cooperation “international trends,” expressing hopes that the three-way partnership would fare well in the “right direction.”
During their talks, the leaders agreed to accelerate their negotiations for the “comprehensive, high-level and mutually beneficial” trilateral free trade pact.
The negotiations have not yielded any tangible progress yet due to differences over services, investment and other sectors. Since November 2012, the countries have held eight rounds of negotiations.
The leaders also agreed to “exert their leadership” influence to induce progress in the ongoing negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a mooted free-trade deal involving the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, South Korea, China, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Launched in November 2012, the negotiations over the RCEP have yielded progress in the liberalization of investment and service sectors. Seoul officials said that if the deal is clinched, it would establish a “firm foundation for stable regional trade and investment.”
To explore new areas of economic cooperation, the leaders agreed to organize a trilateral consultative body that Seoul officials say would find the synergistic effect of the three governments’ economic policy focusing on creativity and innovation.
To further promote electronic commerce among the three nations, the leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation in sharing information and conducting joint research and training on creating a region-wide integrated “digital market.”
On the part of energy imports, the leaders agreed to step up their cooperation to secure stable importation of liquefied natural gas through various means, such as mapping out joint responses to future LNG supply crises and jointly utilizing infrastructures for LNG imports.
The three nations account for some 57 percent of the world’s LNG imports.
As for cooperation on global issues, the leaders agreed to work closely together for the successful hosting of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The pivotal session of the conference, where the world is set to reach a new international climate agreement, will be held in Paris, France from Nov. 30 through Dec. 11.
The issue of climate change is of great importance for the three nations as they account for some 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The three nations have a combined population of some 1.5 billion -- a fifth of the world’s population.
On the part of North Korea, the three leaders reaffirmed their “firm” opposition to the development of nuclear weapons on the peninsula and any action that would cause peninsular tensions or violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.
A day earlier, Park and Li held a bilateral summit during which the two sides signed 13 memorandums of understanding and another agreement, all of which were related to economic cooperation.
At the talks, the two sides agreed to make efforts for the bilateral free trade agreement to take effect within this year by speeding up domestic legal procedures.
The leaders also agreed to establish a cooperative mechanism to bolster cooperation in the robot industry. Seoul expects the agreement to pave the way for it to advance into China’s massive robot market, which is estimated to be worth $2.71 billion.
Also notable was that the leaders agreed to explore the possibilities of a joint fund to support bilateral efforts to connect the two nations’ ambitious projects to link the countries with the world through massive infrastructure projects. Seoul’s project is called the Eurasia Initiative, while the Chinese one is called “One Belt One Road.”
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com