China, Japan and South Korea have concluded negotiations on a trilateral deal to promote corporate direct investment. The pact may be signed by May. If signed, the accord could serve as the precursor to a three-way free trade agreement.
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the three countries agreed to the terms of the investment pact at a meeting in Beijing.
They aim to sign the new deal at a summit meeting of leaders from the three countries to be held in May, also in Beijing. The agreement may come into force by 2013.
The three countries already have bilateral investment pacts with one another, but this is the first legally binding deal between these three major Asian economies.
Reports say the investment accord will protect intellectual property rights and prohibit demands for technology transfer, protecting Japanese and South Korean firms working in China. Most such provisions were not in previous bilateral deals.
The investment deal paves the way for further talks on a FTA. Officials from all three countries have said they hope to start trilateral FTA talks by May or June.
According to the BBC, Asian nations have been trying to improve ties as growth has slowed in markets such as the US and Europe.
Report: S. Korea, China, Japan strike deal on investment pact [Yonhap News Agency, 22 Mar 2011]
Report: Japan, China, S. Korea agree investment pact [Yomiuri Shimbun, 23 Mar 2011]
Report: Japan, China and S Korea edge towards free-trade deal [BBC, 23 Mar 2011]