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Biz leaders of S. Korea, Japan urge efforts for economic bloc

According to Yonhap News,

(SEJONG/SEOUL=Yonhap News) Business leaders of South Korea and Japan called for joint efforts to boost economic cooperation between their countries Thursday, while vowing support for ongoing negotiations to form a regional economic bloc through free trade pacts.


The call came at the end of an annual meeting of businesspeople from the two countries, hosted by the Korea-Japan Economic Association.

This year's meeting, held in Seoul from Wednesday, was attended by some 300 business leaders from both countries. The two-day meeting also marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Seoul and Tokyo.

"The two countries' business leaders have agreed to help start an era of joint growth and co-prosperity by forming an unified economic bloc, and to join their efforts in making the 21st century an era of Asia by realizing a sustainable, balanced and strong Asia," the participants said in a joint statement released by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

To this end, they said they will support the ongoing negotiations for a three-way free trade agreement (FTA) involving the two countries and China, as well as Seoul's participation in a U.S.-led regional FTA, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that currently involves Japan and 10 other countries.

"(We) have agreed to actively support South Korea's participation in the TPP and the signing of the Korea-Japan-China FTA as they will not only help South Korea and Japan form a single economic bloc but also play a significant role in realizing economic integration of the entire Asian region," the statement said.

The declaration of support for a trilateral FTA between South Korea, Japan and China came one day after the countries' chief negotiators ended their latest and seventh round of talks with no clear breakthrough.

The three-way FTA talks have been held since March 2012, but no significant progress has yet emerged.

Seoul and Tokyo have also held four rounds of negotiations for a separate bilateral FTA, but the talks have been stalled since late 2004.

As a way of boosting bilateral cooperation between the two countries, the business leaders agreed to jointly explore new business opportunities in third countries.

They also asked the countries' governments to enhance their own cooperation, noting that joint projects in a third country must be backed by the countries' coordinated economic and financial policies.

The business leaders also vowed support for increased exchange between the countries' youth, noting that a good and broad exchange and understanding between the young people will be the very "foundation of the Korea-Japan relationship in the future."

"An FTA among South Korea, Japan and China along with the TPP are all about creating a single economic bloc in the region. If South Korea joins the TPP, it would have an effect of securing an FTA with Japan as well," he said in response to a question over the stalled bilateral free trade talks between Seoul and Tokyo.

Asked about the weak yen and its impact on businesses in Korea, Mikio Sasaki, chairman of the Japan-Korea Economic Association, said through an interpreter that it seems to be an "adjusting process for the excessive appreciation of the yen in the past, which did not reflect the real economy of Japan."

He, however, expressed worries that increased currency fluctuation would not be desirable for businesses, hoping that it would be adjusted in a stable manner.

"The weak yen is good for exporters but an excessive descent is not desirable for Japan either, which depends much on imports in various areas," he said. "We hope that it will be adjusted in a certain stable range."

With regard to the frozen political and diplomatic ties between South Korea and Japan over historical and territorial issues, he said that strengthening economic, cultural and personnel exchanges would help resolve the stalemate, adding that those are what they discussed during the two-day conference.,

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Source Text

Source: Yonhap News (May 14, 2015)

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