China, Japan, South Korea set to enhance trilateral ties

2020-12-08 China Daily Editor:Mo Hong'e

China enjoys geographical proximity and cultural bonds with Japan and South Korea. In particular, the three countries have been supporting and helping each other to fight the COVID-19 outbreak since early this year.

Statistics show that by the end of October, trade volume between China and Japan had reached nearly $260 billion, a 0.4 percent decline year-on-year, despite the impact of the pandemic and the global economic downturn. Trade volume between China and South Korea reached $230 billion, down 1.1 percent year-on-year.

The economic and trade exchanges between China, Japan and South Korea have maintained basically stable development, which fully demonstrates the great resilience and dependence of economic cooperation among them.

The recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is good news for the three countries. It signals how they have joined the same free trade framework and reached free trade agreements with reciprocal measures for the first time, creating a better environment for trilateral free trade agreement negotiations. It will also further promote trade ties and integration among the three sides.

At the 27th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting on Nov 20, President Xi Jinping said China will "favorably consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership".

The statement once again demonstrates China's consistent position of upholding multilateralism and free trade and facilitating economic globalization.

If China joins the CPTPP, it can further deepen its economic cooperation with other countries and inject stronger impetus into regional economic integration in East Asia. Therefore, China, Japan and South Korea are now facing a rare new historic opportunity for their trilateral cooperation, and all parties should seize it.

At the same time, the three countries should recognize that we also face some challenges even though cooperation among them has achieved certain results. In the future, China, Japan and South Korea should focus their efforts on the following goals.

They should enhance mutual trust in cooperation and promote cooperation on the basis of mutual trust. Mutual political trust plays the role of ballast stone in the trilateral cooperation among China, Japan and South Korea. Though they have different political systems, it does not hurt the improvement of their mutual political trust.

In recent years, complex changes in the international situation have led to insufficient mutual trust among the three countries and in particular a decline in affinity among their peoples. Only by consolidating the foundation of mutual trust can the relations between China, Japan and South Korea be stable and everlasting, and the cooperation between them further improved.

They should maintain their strategic focus and avoid any third-party interference. The strategic focus serves as a benchmark of trilateral cooperation. The cooperation among China, Japan and South Korea has been hindered, mainly due to third-party interference, though there were various factors. Against the background of new circumstances, the three countries should repair, cultivate and accumulate mutual trust through closer cooperation and deeper exchanges.

They should ensure their own interests, people's well-being and regional peace and stability, avoid the interference of other countries in their relations, and continuously consolidate and develop relations among them.

Joint efforts should be made to deepen economic ties and boost regional economic integration among the three sides. Economic exchange has been hailed as a "booster" of the three countries' cooperation. The economic structures of China, Japan and South Korea are highly complementary, since Japan and South Korea boast cutting-edge technology, and China is a big market. The cooperation among the three countries has broad prospects and great potential.

China is striving to foster a new development pattern that features the domestic market as the mainstay, with domestic and international markets reinforcing each other, toward opening-up at a higher level, which is an important opportunity for Japan and South Korea.

In the meantime, the RCEP signing has created a favorable environment for speeding up the negotiations on a China-Japan-South Korea free trade agreement. The three countries should accelerate this process, strive to achieve substantive results as soon as possible, and offer more convenient market access and more transparent market rules, so as to create an "RCEP Plus "free trade agreement.

In addition, China, Japan and South Korea should enhance their cultural exchanges and people-to-people understanding. Culture serves as a "lubricant" for their cooperation, and the three countries have an advantage in conducting cultural exchanges, in particular the exchange between young people from the three sides.

They should intensify youth exchanges through various channels, enhance mutual recognition and affinity among people, and promote people-to-people interactions. Only when the people are trusted can the relationship be stable.

The cooperation among China, Japan and South Korea not only benefits the people of the three countries, but also helps to maintain regional peace and stability and enhance the well-being of mankind.

The author is the president of the China Public Diplomacy Association.

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