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Saturday, Nov. 13, 2004

China tells Japan to hurry up with free-trade deal


Staff writer

OSAKA -- Chinese participants of the 4th Japan-China Economic Conference urged Japan on Friday to speed up negotiations for a free-trade agreement so that an East Asian FTA can be concluded by 2020.

But their Japanese counterparts greeted the proposal cautiously, expressing concern over both China's ability to meet its World Trade Organization requirements and a variety of political problems that would hamper such an agreement.

The three-day conference of senior Japanese and Chinese business leaders and academics began Wednesday, the same day that a Chinese submarine intruded into Japanese waters.

But the main focus of the conference was the future, which Chinese delegates see as one of bilateral trade agreements followed by regional trade agreements.

Yun Ling, head of the China Social Science Research Institute, a think tank that advises the Chinese government, said: "An FTA for China, South Korea and Japan is possible. I'd like to see preliminary negotiations for an East Asian FTA start by about 2008, and officially begin in 2010, to be concluded between 2015 and 2020.

"However, a bilateral China-Japan FTA is still difficult. More cooperation is necessary and negotiations need to be sped up."

Japanese participants were not optimistic that Zhang's proposed timetable could be met.

They said it was important that China first convince the world that it can comply with the details of the WTO agreement before a bilateral or regional FTA is concluded.

China is not in compliance with nearly 100 items in the WTO agreement.



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The Japan Times

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