China, Japan, and South Korea have agreed to soon start talks on a free-trade pact.
The announcement was made by leaders of the three countries meeting in Beijing.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, called on their countries to cooperate more to face the economic challenges currently facing the world economy.
Wen said the international financial crisis is not over "and the prospect of the European debt crisis is uncertain."
"There is increasing downward pressures on our three countries' economies," Wen said. "Faced with difficulties, we must remain confident, and by deepening our cooperation, increase economic integration and continue to increase our competitiveness."
The three nations are major traders, and together accounted for 19.6 percent of the world's economy and 18.5 percent of its exports in 2010.
But the three neighbors are also divided by political distrust, trade barriers, and diverging investment policies.
Based on reporting by AP and Reuters