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Monday, 14 May 2012 - 7:51
Three of Asia's biggest economies meet.
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The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea, three of Asia's biggest economies, have agreed to begin talks this year for a free-trade agreement.

The three leaders also signed a trilateral investment agreement, at a summit in Beijing yesterday.

China is the biggest trading partner of both Japan and South Korea.

As with other free-trade agreements between countries, this one could still face long negotiations and trade barriers.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the pact would help the nations in a time of rising trade protectionism.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said economic co-operation was essential to maintaining the Asia-Pacific region as the growth centre of the world economy.

Trade between the three countries reached $690 billion in 2011.

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