SEOUL, May 6 (Xinhua) -- China, Japan and South Korea on Thursday kicked off a joint research on setting up a free trade area (FTA) among the three nations.
During the first round of joint research meeting on the FTA held in South Korea's capital Seoul, China's Vice Commerce Minister Yi Xiaozhun, Japan's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Otabe Yoichi and Deputy Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroyuki Ishige and South Korea's chief FTA negotiator Lee Hye-min signed a joint statement saying that the three nations, in light of consensus reached previously, will make efforts to complete the joint research ahead of the trilateral leaders' meeting of the three countries in 2012.
Research institutes of the three nations have carried out comprehensive and in-depth studies on the possibility of setting up a regional free trade zone since their leaders agreed on undertaking non-governmental academic research on the issue in 2002.
The studies came to a positive conclusion that the FTA will help eliminate trade barriers, expand regional market and promote economic integration among the three nations to achieve mutual benefit.
During the second trilateral leaders' meeting last year, the three nations agreed on launching a joint research conducted by the governments, industrial sectors and academic agencies as soon as possible. The three nations also agreed later that the joint research should be kicked off ahead of the third trilateral leaders' meeting due in South Korea in the first half of 2010.