Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Sunday that China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have agreed to launch talks on a free trade area (FTA) this year.
Wen made the remarks at a press briefing after a trilateral leaders' meeting attended by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and ROK President Lee Myung-bak.
Calling the agreement "an important strategic decision," Wen said the three nations should make concerted efforts for the early establishment of the FTA.
The three nations also clinched a deal to promote, facilitate and protect investment on Sunday morning. Wen said it will serve as the first important legal document on trilateral cooperation in the economic field.
He said the three nations have promised to seriously implement the deal, so as to "create a stable, fair and transparent environment for expanding mutual investment among the three countries and further deepen economic integration."
Meanwhile, Wen said they agreed to deepen fiscal and financial cooperation and promote the development of Asian bond markets.
The three countries will also expand cooperation in the field of sustainable development while accelerating the construction of pilot bases for recycling economy.
Trade and economic ties were highlighted at the meeting as China-Japan-ROK trade has seen rapid growth in recent years.
Trilateral trade had more than quadrupled from 130 billion U.S. dollars in 1999 to 690 billion U.S. dollars in 2011. China has topped the trading partners' lists of Japan and the ROK for many years, while Japan and the ROK rank fourth and sixth among China's trading partners, respectively.
At the end of 2002, China, Japan and the ROK agreed to start the FTA feasibility study. In May 2010, the joint study on the FTA was officially launched, and the joint study group completed its work in December 2011.
Trade ministers of the three nations met in Beijing Saturday to finalize a trilateral investment accord and push FTA negotiations up on each country's agenda