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Sino-Japan-ROK FTA to boost Qingdao economic development

By Xie Chuanjiao and Ma Weixin ( chinadaily.com.cn )

Updated: 2013-08-29

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An agreement regarding the Sino-Japan-ROK Free Trade Area is expected to be reached within two years, said Huo Jianguo, president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economics, at a recent forum.

The Sino-Japan-ROK FTA Development Forum was held in Qingdao on Aug 22, with scholars, government officials and business associations from the three countries gathering to discuss hot topics concerning FTA development as well as opportunities presented to Qingdao. Qingdao has made breakthroughs in regional Sino-Japan-ROK economic cooperation as it strives to build a model city of trilateral economic cooperation, according to a source at the forum.

"As the second largest port city in terms of foreign trade, Qingdao could integrate its resources to enhance the city's attractiveness to Japan and South Korea," said Li Yong, vice-president of the China Association of International Trade.

"If Qingdao could parlay its current advantage as a model area of cooperation into earning achieving status as a domestic free trade area like Shanghai, it will further accelerate the progress of Sino-Japan-ROK FTA negotiations," he added.

In the first half of 2013, Qingdao approved 35 Japanese-invested projects and received investment capital of $210 million from Japan. Its trade volume with Japan reached $403 million, accounting for 11.3 percent of the city's total foreign trade. At the same time, Qingdao approved 97 projects invested by South Korean firms, with a combined contract volume of $610 million. A total of $420 million in financing from South Korea is currently in place, up 3.8 percent from the same period last year. Qingdao's trade volume with South Korea hit $407 million, accounting for 11.4 percent of the city's total, according to Ma Weigang, head of the Qingdao bureau of commerce.

"The cooperation between Qingdao, Japan and South Korea has evolved to a strategic level as multiple cooperation levels and platforms, as well as rules and regulations, have been set up," Ma said in a keynote speech on Thursday.

The trade councils of Qingdao-Busan and Qingdao-Kyoto have been established with secretariats operating in the three respective cities, providing communication support and a platform for trade and cooperation among the three countries.

Qingdao has also made headway in the buildup of Sino-Japan and Sino-ROK innovation parks, which cover an area of 55 sq km in the West Coast New Economic Zone. Samsung is confirmed to participate in the planning, design and development of the Sino-ROK Park, which is expected to be built into an eco-smart city complex that specializes in IT, electronics, ecological industries and high-end services. The planning of a Sino-Japan science and technology park in the Qingdao National High-Tech Industrial Development Zone in north Qingdao has been officially launched amidst the development of a number of small-scale industrial parks featuring Sino-Japan-ROK cooperation in Qingdao's satellite cities of Jimo, Jiaozhou, Pingdu, Laixi, Huangdao and Chengyang.