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Seoul to positively consider joining multilateral free trade deal

Seoul to positively consider joining multilateral free trade deal

Posted November. 30, 2013 07:25,   


South Korea will positively consider participating in a U.S.-led regional free trade pact. Seoul`s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is expected to expand the country`s export markets but its own market opening could negatively affect some of its industries.

"There is a need for the government to first express interest in joining the TPP and hold preliminary bilateral talks with countries already taking part," Deputy Prime Minister and Strategy and Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok said in a weekly meeting of economy-related ministers in Seoul. "The government will conduct in-depth analyses of the impact of Korea`s participation in the TPP on sensitive areas such as agriculture, livestock and fishery industries and listen to the opinions of interested parties and experts."

Although the remarks are far from a declaration of the government`s participation in the TPP, they are a step forward from the government`s previous position that it would carefully study the effects before making a decision. Some speculate that the government can make a formal declaration of its participation by the end of this year or early next year.

So far, there has been a sharp division of opinions within the government. Advocates say that the government should participate in the TPP as a starting member to voice its views when relevant rules are made, while opponents argue that there is no need to hurry at a time when the country already has free trade agreements in effect with many other countries.

However, the government is now positively considering early participation given the prospects that joining the TPP will be of benefit to the country and that China will also take part in the multilateral trade pact. Seoul projects that participating in the TPP will likely increase the country`s exports of automobiles, refined petroleum products, boosting its economic growth rate by 2.5 to 2.6 percentage points 10 years after joining the trade deal.

Currently, 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region are negotiating the multilateral trade agreement. They are the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile and Peru.