Trilateral investment pact preludes China-Japan-ROK FTA

Updated: 2014-05-19 15:03


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CHANGCHUN - A trilateral agreement took effect Saturday to facilitate investment among China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK).

The China-Japan-ROK agreement for promotion, facilitation and protection of investment, is widely believed by economists to be a prelude to the foundation of the free trade agreement (FTA) among the three countries.

"It will certainly give a major boost to the economic development of all three countries," said Li Tie, vice president of the China International Trade Association.

Foreign investment has played an irreplaceable role in boosting China's reform, opening up and economic growth in recent decades, he said. "It has an even larger role to play in years to come."

At the opening of the Summer Davos Forum last September, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China's outbound direct investment was expected to reach $500 billion in the coming five years. The figure is roughly equal to the total scale of the country's ODI over the past 20 years.

The trilateral investment agreement will be particularly important to China's northeastern region, a rust belt that used to be China's heavy industry base, said Li.

"Jilin province, for example, is home to more than 900 ROK-invested companies and 200 Japanese-funded businesses," he said. "It's time for the local governments to encourage these companies to expand investment under the framework of the new agreement."

Lack of foreign investment has to some extent aggravated the economic gap between China's interior and coastal regions.

"The northeastern provinces should open up wider to the outside world and take advantage of their geographical location to expand collaboration with Japanese and ROK businesses," said Zhang Huizhi, vice dean of Jilin University's Northeast Asian Studies College.

The trilateral agreement, the first of its kind, was signed in May 2012 after 13 rounds of negotiations.

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