China Japan Free Trade Agreement

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China Japan Free Trade Agreement: Benefits, Challenges, and Implications for the Region

China and Japan, two of the world`s largest economies and trading partners, signed a historic free trade agreement (FTA) on November 15, 2020, after eight years of negotiations. The China-Japan FTA, also known as the China-Japan-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CJK FTA), aims to promote regional economic integration, liberalize trade and investment, and enhance cooperation in various fields. While the agreement has been hailed as a positive step towards peace and prosperity in East Asia, it also faces some obstacles and questions.

In this article, we will examine the key features, benefits, challenges, and implications of the China-Japan FTA, as well as its connection to the broader context of global trade and politics.

Key Features and Benefits

The China-Japan FTA covers a wide range of trade and investment issues, including tariffs, rules of origin, services, intellectual property, government procurement, and dispute settlement. According to the official text, the FTA will eliminate or reduce tariffs on more than 90% of goods traded between China and Japan within 10 years, and promote greater market access for services and investment. The FTA also includes provisions on environmental protection, labor standards, and cross-border e-commerce, which are seen as progressive and inclusive.

The benefits of the China-Japan FTA are expected to be substantial for both countries. China and Japan are each other`s largest trading partners, and the total bilateral trade volume exceeded $300 billion in 2019. By further lowering trade barriers and enhancing cooperation, the FTA could boost the economic growth and competitiveness of both countries, improve the quality and variety of goods and services available to consumers, and create more job opportunities. The FTA could also facilitate the integration of supply chains and industries across the region, as well as help stabilize the global trade system amid challenges from protectionism and uncertainty.

Challenges and Implications

The China-Japan FTA, however, faces several challenges and implications that could affect its implementation and impact. One of the main challenges is the ongoing political and security tensions between the two countries, which have a complex history of conflict and rivalry. While the FTA is seen as a step towards reconciliation and cooperation, it could also trigger nationalist and protectionist sentiments, especially in sensitive industries such as agriculture and fisheries. Some Japanese farmers and fishermen fear that the FTA could lead to an influx of cheaper and lower-quality Chinese products, and harm their livelihoods. Similarly, some Chinese consumers and producers worry about the quality and safety of Japanese products, especially in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Another challenge is the broader geopolitical context of the China-Japan FTA, which involves other major players such as the United States, South Korea, and ASEAN. The China-Japan FTA could be seen as a counterweight to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement promoted by the US under the Obama administration but abandoned by the Trump administration. The TPP, which includes Japan and other Pacific Rim countries, aims to set higher standards for trade and investment, and reduce China`s influence in the region. While the China-Japan FTA is not directly opposed to the TPP, it could complicate the strategic calculations of the US, Japan, and China, and lead to more competition and tension in the region.

The implications of the China-Japan FTA also extend beyond the economic and political realms. The FTA could have social, cultural, and environmental impacts on the people and communities involved. For example, the FTA could increase or diversify the flow of tourists, students, and workers between China and Japan, and foster more exchanges of ideas, values, and experiences. However, the FTA could also exacerbate the environmental degradation, resource depletion, and climate change that affect both countries and the planet as a whole.


The China-Japan FTA is a significant milestone in the history and future of East Asia and the global trade system. The FTA represents a positive development towards more open, inclusive, and cooperative trade and investment, as well as a step towards building trust and peace between China and Japan. However, the FTA also faces some challenges and implications that require careful attention and action from the governments, businesses, and civil society organizations involved. These challenges and implications include the political and security tensions between China and Japan, the broader geopolitical context of the TPP and other trade agreements, and the social, cultural, and environmental dimensions of trade and investment. By addressing these challenges and implications, the China-Japan FTA can realize its potential benefits and contribute to a more prosperous and sustainable future for all.

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