Integration speeds up in Northeast Asia

Da Zhigang

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrapped up his three-day trip to Japan on Tuesday. During the stay, he co-chaired the fourth high-level economic dialogue between China and Japan with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono and met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Japanese government and society, particularly the economic circle, has paid heightened attention to the visit: Exchanges among officials and peoples of the two countries are urgently needed when bilateral relations gradually improve.
Leaders of China, Japan and South Korea are expected to meet in May. Wang’s visit is the prelude to more high-level visits and exchanges between the two countries and will help China and Japan enhance trust, manage differences and consolidate the momentum of improving ties. It will also help the two countries expand their cooperation in Northeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region under the Belt and Road initiative and promote economic integration of China, Japan and South Korea.
China and Japan have improved their relations as they find it necessary to work together to defend free trade against the de-globalization trend, and in the long run to promote the building of an Asian community of a shared future through deeper regional cooperation.
This comes at a time when Northeast Asia, including Russia and South Korea, becomes more important strategically for China and Japan. In the region, top leaders of China and North Korea have had a historic meeting and North Korea’s summits with South Korea and the US are being prepared. Tensions in Northeast Asia have eased. China and Japan should explore ways to maintain peace, broaden their cooperation on free trade and build a community of a shared future in Northeast Asia and Asia. This can help expand their influence in the Asia-Pacific and enhance their discourse power in the world. Better China-Japan ties and deepening cooperation in Northeast Asia are beneficial for the two countries as well as the Asia-Pacific region.
Regional stability and cooperation matters not only to relations between China and Japan, but also to their own development. Northeast Asia has the potential to become an engine of global development and is the ballast of foreign trade of China and Japan.
The cooperation of China and Japan, as well as their cooperation with South Korea, is materializing into specific programs.
President Xi Jinping said China will launch a set of landmark measures to significantly broaden its market access, improve the investment environment, strengthen intellectual property rights protection and expand imports at the Boao Forum for Asia earlier this month. His speech sent a positive signal that China will open up more widely. This will enable China, Japan and South Korea to deepen cooperation. Japan has shown a positive attitude to the role of the Belt and Road initiative in advancing regional cooperation, and is exploring business cooperation in infrastructure, the green economy, finance and third-party cooperation. Japanese firms are working to connect their programs with China or in cooperation with China, Japan and South Korea. South Korea has also promoted its cooperation with China and Japan.
China, Japan and South Korea held their 13th round of negotiations on free trade agreement (FTA) in March. Despite their diverging interests and demands, they opted to find the maximum common denominator and safeguard free trade against de-globalization. Pushing forward a trilateral FTA can serve as a model and reference for broader regional cooperation and facilitate finalizing an Asia-Pacific FTA.
In this process, China and Japan are builders and contributors. They need to avert risks in diplomacy, seek common interests in politics, promote cooperation in trade and enhance mutual understanding.
Wang’s visit to Japan provides an opportunity for the two countries to explore transformation, have policy communication and discuss building regional mechanisms. It is expected that Sino-Japanese ties will continue improving and they, together with South Korea, will launch FTA cooperation.
—Courtesy: Global Times. [The author is director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies, Heilongj iang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences. opinion @ globalt imes.com.cn].

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