South Korea: Which Way Will it Go on Asian Integration?
Since 1990, Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs), including Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Customs Unions, have spread rapidly on the basis of the WTO system that was launched in 1995; 224 FTAs were reported to GATT/WTO by late 2011, many of them in Asia.1 Korea, China and Japan have already signed FTAs with ASEAN and individual ASEAN countries. The positive attitude of East Asian countries toward FTAs has contributed to trade liberalization in the East Asia region, and discussions surrounding ASEAN are becoming more active. Integration, however, is difficult to achieve due to the clash between China and Japan, the former hoping to pursue an East Asian FTA (EAFTA) within the ASEAN+3 (China, Japan, South Korea) framework; while the latter prefers a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA) within the ASEAN+6 (India, Australia, New Zealand) framework. Discussions entered a new phase as Japan, which has favored ASEAN+6, expressed its willingness to participate in TPP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement) at the APEC Summit in November 2011.