Japan, South Korea and China on Tuesday kicked off their fourth round of talks aimed at forming a trilateral free trade area, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The four-day session follows one held in November in Tokyo.
If the trilateral FTA is achieved, it will group the countries that account for about 20 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and about 17 percent of global trade.
But South Korea’s trade minister Yoon Sang Jick has said it is unlikely that a major breakthrough will emerge from this week’s talks, Japan’s News Agency (Kyodo) reported.
“Negotiations do not always go smoothly. In certain cases, (the countries) must engage in a tug-of-war,” Yoon was quoted by Yonnap News Agency as saying.
“It does not mean negotiations are not moving forward just because there is no (visible) progress. It rather means the negotiations are moving toward an end,” he added.
Among the stumbling blocks in the negotiations is agriculture, with farmers in South Korea and Japan strongly opposed to cheap farm products flooding into their markets.
South Korea and China are engaged in separate negotiations for a bilateral FTA, for which the 10th round of talks is set for later in the month. Bilateral talks on a free trade deal between South Korea and Japan have not been held since 2004.
The trilateral FTA negotiations began in 2012.