A China Southern Airlines worker loads medical supplies, including masks and protective suits, at Shenyang Taoxian International Airport in Northeast China's Liaoning province, on March 16, 2020. (Photo: China Daily)
All-around cooperation between China, Japan and South Korea is essential in view of a new trend of regionalization and localization of supply chains emerging in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To ensure such cooperation, the three countries should push for new mechanisms of cooperation in the manufacturing sector.
Such mechanisms are needed in the pharmaceutical and medical equipment sectors to fight the pandemic. In addition, joint efforts are needed to maintain the security of supply chains of medical goods.
They are also required in such sectors as automobiles, industrial robots and information and communications technology, as well as cross-border e-commerce and online retail trade.
Cooperation should be strengthened in cross-border logistics, customs clearance, inspection and quarantine, and the entry and exit of business and technical personnel, to ensure smooth operation of supply chains.
China, Japan and South Korea should establish mechanisms for coordination of joint assessment and early warning about the safety and stability of their supply chains.
With the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world, the disruption of global industrial chains and supply shortages is likely to become reality and may lead to a global economic recession. To cope with the impact of the pandemic, regional industrial supply chains should be secured and communication and coordination mechanisms should be strengthened.
In addition, a tripartite communication and coordination mechanism is needed to secure manufacturing supply chains.
Government authorities or industry associations should take the lead in establishing such a mechanism to prevent or deal with disruptions in supply chains, and to promote sharing of information on resumption of production in a timely manner between upstream and downstream producers as well as between businesses and government bodies.
A tripartite joint assessment and early risk warning mechanism should also be established to secure manufacturing supply chains.
Furthermore, the three countries should readjust control measures in a timely manner on the flow of goods and personnel in order to promote smooth operation of supply chains.
They also should establish a mechanism involving their administrative bodies in health, commerce, industry and customs departments to ensure smooth clearance of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and other supplies needed to fight COVID-19.
Tariffs on these goods should be lowered or cut to zero, while border measures as well as measures within the borders should be relaxed to facilitate the smooth flow of needed supplies among the three countries.
In order to prevent another wave of COVID-19, the guidelines of the three countries should be harmonized, and temporary restrictive measures that control the flow of people and goods should be lifted in a timely manner.
China, Japan and South Korea should also jointly promote liberalization and facilitation of trade in goods and services, and develop zero-contact transportation, storage and distribution, in order to facilitate the smooth operation of supply chains.
Finally, the three countries should promote a free trade process. The pandemic is likely to worsen the external environments for these countries' international trade. Advancing a China-Japan-South Korea free trade process would be a major strategic choice for regional economic integration in East Asia.
The three nations should also accelerate negotiations in areas such as investment and trade in services, intellectual property and sustainable development.
Additionally, they should make concerted efforts to ensure the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region, as scheduled this year.
They also should advance cooperation in public health, medical care, healthcare, elderly care, environmental protection, and scientific and technological research, and jointly develop tripartite digital trade so that the commitments listed in the Trilateral Cooperation Vision for the Next Decade, released at the eighth China-Japan-South Korea leaders' meeting last year, can be implemented one after the other.
Prior to the conclusion of a high-level trade and investment agreement among the three countries, tripartite free trade policies should be included in key sectors such as medical and healthcare, culture and entertainment, the digital economy, and finance and insurance in the Hainan Free Trade Port Early Harvest project list, in order to achieve breakthroughs in the three countries' cooperation in these sectors in Hainan province.
Chi Fulin is president of the China Institute for Reform and Development in Hainan province and He Dongni is vice-president and associate research fellow.