Re­gional in­te­gra­tion tops agenda

Trade fric­tions boost North­east Asian co­op­er­a­tion

Global Times - - Front Page - By Chen Qingqing in Vladi­vos­tok

Lead­ers of China, Rus­sia, Ja­pan, South Korea and Mon­go­lia called for re­gional in­te­gra­tion and co­op­er­a­tion on Wed­nes­day to con­front es­ca­lated trade fric­tions and ris­ing pro­tec­tion­ism.

The in­ter­na­tional sit­u­a­tion is now un­der­go­ing pro­found and com­pli­cated changes with ris­ing power pol­i­tics, uni­lat­er­al­ism and pro­tec­tion­ism, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping said at the ple­nary ses­sion of the East­ern Eco­nomic Fo­rum (EEF) on Wed­nes­day, the Xin­hua News Agency re­ported.

The Chi­nese pres­i­dent also called on the re­gional coun­tries to ex­plore new mod­els for co­or­di­nated de­vel­op­ment in North­east Asia, speed up sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion, fos­ter a re­source-sav­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly in­dus­trial pat­tern and way of life, and jointly tackle the re­gional en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues that all coun­tries are fac­ing.

The global econ­omy is fac­ing ris­ing pro­tec­tion­ism and the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of trade and com­pe­ti­tion have been jeop­ar­dized, Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said dur­ing the ple­nary ses­sion of the fo­rum.

To main­tain re­gional eco­nomic growth, coun­tries in the re­gion should aban­don ide­o­log­i­cal bias and adopt re­cip­ro­cal ap­proaches, Putin said.

North­east Asian coun­tries are fac­ing a ris­ing threat in trade fric­tions with the US. US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­cently told US me­dia that the threat of auto tar­iffs is back on the agenda and Ja­pan could be­come the No.1 tar­get.

Dur­ing the fo­rum, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives from South

Korea, Ja­pan, Rus­sia and China dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of en­hanc­ing con­nec­tiv­ity and col­lab­o­ra­tion in the re­gion to coun­ter­bal­ance the ris­ing uni­lat­eral stance adopted by Trump.

“In other re­gions like the Mid­dle East, we have al­ready made great co­op­er­a­tion with Chi­nese com­pa­nies,” Teruo Asada, chair­man of the Ja­pan-Rus­sia busi­ness co­op­er­a­tion com­mit­tee, told the Global Times on Wed­nes­day.

The same kind of co­op­er­a­tion will be ex­pected in in­fra­struc­ture in the re­gion as in sec­tors such as en­ergy and trans­port, he noted.

China is will­ing to push for­ward mul­ti­lat­eral and sub­re­gional co­op­er­a­tion, as China-Ja­pan-South Korea and China-Rus­sia-Mon­go­lia col­lab­o­ra­tion have yielded pos­i­tive out­comes, Xi noted at the fo­rum.

Re­gional tie-ups high­lighted

North­east Asia is likely to be­come a re­gion with an ex­plo­sive mix­ture of con­flicts in­clud­ing the Korean Penin­sula nu­clear is­sue and a se­ries of ter­ri­to­rial and his­tor­i­cal prob­lems or dis­putes among China, Ja­pan, the two Koreas as well as Rus­sia, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished by Ger­man re­search foun­da­tion Hanns-Sei­delStiftung in Jan­uary.

How­ever, trade and in­vest­ment ac­tiv­i­ties have been dy­namic be­tween ma­jor economies in the re­gion, the re­port noted.

The to­tal GDP vol­ume of North­east Asia ac­counts for 19 per­cent of the global econ­omy, and a peace­ful, and sta­ble North­east Asia of mu­tual trust meets the in­ter­ests and ex­pec­ta­tions of the global com­mu­nity, Xi noted.

Fac­ing hefty US tar­iffs on North­east Asian coun­tries, China, Ja­pan and South Korea should ac­cel­er­ate free trade talks and reach an agree­ment as soon as pos­si­ble which will be a ma­jor way of boost­ing re­gional de­vel­op­ment and tack­ling trade ob­sta­cles, said Wang Xianju, a re­search fel­low at the Euro-Asian So­cial De­vel­op­ment Re­search In­sti­tute of the De­vel­op­ment Re­search Cen­ter of the State Coun­cil in Beijing.

“The con­struc­tion of oil and nat­u­ral gas pipe­lines be­tween Rus­sia, South Korea and North Korea should also start in a short time,” he said.

South Korean Prime Min­is­ter Lee Nak-yeon also ex­pressed his coun­try’s in­ter­est in boost­ing re­gional in­te­gra­tion through the es­tab­lish­ment of a rail­way com­mu­nity.

Re­gional co­op­er­a­tion “is the fu­ture trend,” said Xiao Yaqing, chair­man of the State-owned As­sets Su­per­vi­sion and Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mis­sion.

Coun­tries in the re­gion are seek­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties and look­ing into po­ten­tial projects which will boost over­all growth of North­east Asia, he noted.

Lin­ger­ing un­cer­tain­ties

For some busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives, re­gional co­op­er­a­tion in North­east Asia still faces chal­lenges.

“A ma­jor chal­lenge is the lack of fi­nanc­ing for in­fra­struc­ture mega projects,” said Asada, chair­man of the Ja­pan-Rus­sia busi­ness co­op­er­a­tion com­mit­tee.

But Wang Xianju told the Global Times that South Korea and Ja­pan’s eco­nomic de­pen­dence on the US will likely add more ob­sta­cles for fur­ther co­op­er­a­tion among coun­tries in the re­gion.

“Wash­ing­ton is not will­ing to see the es­tab­lish­ment of a North­east Asia eco­nomic cir­cle, which would be a sig­nif­i­cant ri­val,” Wang said.

The re­gion could learn from the ex­pe­ri­ences of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions, Wang noted on Wed­nes­day.

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