Ecns | 31 October 2016
Neighbors’ political ties key to substantial collaboration
Relations among China, Japan and the Republic of Korea have soured to such an extent that any three-way consensus－such as the latest consensus achieved by the trade ministers of the three neighbors－offers reason for celebration.
In Tokyo on Saturday, the ministers agreed to establish a trilateral cooperation framework and speed up their negotiations on a trilateral free trade deal and those for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
As the three trade ministers pointed out, their consensus could be a starting point for achieving what the three countries once envisioned together－a harmonious, prosperous East Asia that will be envy of the rest of the world.
As the trade ministers indicated, while each of the three countries is an economic powerhouse in its own right, their highly complementary economies can work miracles together; which is why they had an FTA and the RCEP on their lips.
With all three countries at loggerheads with one another over various issues, that their ongoing diplomatic troubles have not dampened their shared enthusiasm for an economic partnership testifies to the great potential rewards of three-party collaboration. Rewards that are potentially not only economic, since the three share extensive other interests, but also most noticeably at the moment in security.
Their discussions, encouragingly, reportedly underlined a shared belief in economic cooperation’s "constructive role" in improving the overall ties of the three uneasy neighbors.
The present state of their troubled relations shows rhetoric alone will not be enough to deliver what is needed. The era when lackluster political relations do not necessarily become a drag on economic ones appears to be over. Increasingly, the chill in the political weather is taking its toll on the area’s economic landscape. Past rhetoric on an East Asia commonwealth sounds distant and surreal with enterprises in the three countries increasingly displaying worries about the political impasse.
The trade ministers’ agreement is surely conducive to three-party collaboration, but considering the difficulty in maneuvering a summit meeting for the leaders of the three nations, consensus at the trade-minister level may prove more symbolic than substantive. Otherwise, we would have witnessed impressive headway toward both the FTA and RCEP.
To remove the political barricades hindering three-party economic partnership, improvements in political ties are indispensable. Yet such momentum remains weak, if not absent, with a three-party summit still pending.