| ASEAN, S. Korea to launch talks in Jan. for FTA by 2008|
Kyodo, Tuesday August 31
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations and South Korea plan to launch negotiations in January for a free trade agreement, with a view to implementation from January 2008, a senior ASEAN official said Tuesday.
Eliver Rajagoegoek, director for regional cooperation at Indonesia's Ministry of Industry and Trade, disclosed the target date at the end of a one-day meeting among senior economic officials from ASEAN countries.
The economic officials were meeting in Jakarta to prepare for this week's series of ministerial meetings in the Indonesian capital among ASEAN members, and also with some of ASEAN's major trading partners such as China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
The economic ministers from the 10-member ASEAN are expected to focus on pushing forward plans for free trade pacts with these countries.
They will meet their South Korean counterpart on Saturday to discuss the planned FTA and other economic cooperation issues.
ASEAN's talks with Japan to launch a free trade pact have become deadlocked, with Japan apparently preferring to focus more on its talks with individual ASEAN member countries for bilateral free trade agreements.
The suspension of ASEAN-Japan talks last month has raised the question of whether they would be able to launch formal negotiations sometime next year as earlier planned.
Rajagoegoek said ASEAN and India could start the implementation of their "early harvest" program of accelerated trade liberalization despite the pessimism expressed by some officials due to disagreements between the two sides on the issue of rules of origin.
He said the European Union has expressed interest in deepening economic cooperation with ASEAN, but ASEAN feels that the European Union's expanded membership could pose some difficulties.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.