China should accelerate its steps in advancing a free trade agreement with Japan and South Korea and promoting the integration of the Asian economies, the Ministry of Commerce said on Friday.
While the United States is actively advocating a trade agreement across Asia, "China must step up its efforts on pushing forward FTAs in the Asia-Pacific region, including an FTA between China, Japan and South Korea and the ASEAN+3 FTA", Yu Jianhua, assistant commerce minister, said at a forum.
"Otherwise, China will gradually lose the advantages it gains from the economic integration of Asia."
China has set up an FTA with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Joint studies on an FTA between China, Japan and South Korea started years ago.
But during the past two year, the US has been advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership to remove trade and investment barriers among nine countries including Australia and Vietnam. China is not included in the pact and has not proposed joining.
In his annual Government Work Report, Premier Wen Jiabao said China will enhance its efforts to promote the FTA strategy this year.
"As part of quickening its steps on the implementation of the FTA strategy, China should make solid progress on some specific cases, including the FTA between China, Japan and South Korea," said Wei Jianguo, former deputy minister of commerce.
Negotiations on the trilateral FTA is very important as this could help China gain initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region and probably delay progress of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, said Sun Zhenyu, former ambassador to the World Trade Organization.
"The study was wrapped up last year and China expects to start negotiations on the trilateral FTA as early as May when leaders of the three nations are expected to meet," Minister of Commerce Chen Deming said earlier this month.