The elusive China-Japan-South Korea free trade agreement
Greenberg, Jonathan D.
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East Asia has become a major hub for global trade. At the center of this East Asian factory are three nations– China, Japan, and South Korea–which have benefited the most economically. Yet, despite transnational value chains and the trilateral political cooperation that binds these nations, they have yet to conclude a trilateral free trade agreement (FTA). Since 1999, the China-Japan-South Korea FTA has proved to be an elusive feat for these Northeast Asian neighbors. Historical and political animosities and popular mistrust seem to have a corrosive effect upon the trilateral relationship despite decades of political cooperation and economic interdependence. What explains the limited progress toward a China-Japan-South Korea FTA? This thesis tests four potential explanations for the trilateral FTA’s current lack of progress: perceptions of the deal not being an economic priority, the power of influential domestic business interests negatively affected by the FTA, regional competition over China’s growing domestic market, and regional political-historical animosities. Overall, this research concludes that Japan is the least willing participant to push for progress toward a trilateral FTA, and a lack of perception of the deal not being an economic priority is the strongest explanation.
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