December 14, 2021
SEJONG – South Korea on Monday has expressed its commitment to joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is aimed at multilateral free trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region.
In addition, the nation has unveiled a policy to push for bilateral FTAs with more countries, including Mexico.
In a ministerial meeting, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said that the government “is seeking to collect public opinions and reach social consensus” over the entry to the CPTPP.
The government seeks the CPTPP accession to expand trade and investment and bolster the status of Korea as a major trader in the global stage, Hong said.
The CPTPP is the renegotiated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiated by the former US Obama administration. In 2017, his successor Donald Trump withdrew from the TPP, widely seen as a key move to counter China’s growing economic clout.
The multilateral trade pact, launched in December 2018, has been signed by 11 countries — Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand and Australia.
Korea’s willingness toward the pact came three months after China submitted an application to accede to the CPTPP in a surprising move, with Taiwan following suit.
The collective trade volume by the 11 nations participating in the CPTPP had reached about $5.7 trillion as of 2019, making up 15.2 percent of the total global trade figure.
Korea’s potential accession to the CPTPP could be a major boost to expand its trade portfolio in addition to its planned implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
The RCEP, which was inked in November 2020, will take effect in February 2022, as Korea’s legislative body ratified the trade deal early this month.
RCEP, which covers Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is the world’s biggest FTA as its 15 member countries combined take up around 30 percent of the global gross domestic product.
The CPTPP requests high levels of market openness. Korean farmers had actively protested the government’s bid, highlighting the huge potential damage it could pose to the local agricultural sector.
Meanwhile, the accession could also have a similar effect of signing FTAs with Japan and Mexico, both of which have yet to make a bilateral FTA with Korea.
Minister Hong also said in the meeting that Korea will prepare to resume talks for free trade deals with Mexico, which is one of the world’s 15 largest economies, and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.