South Korea will apply to join the Comprehensive Progress Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, after China’s application to join the regional trade agreement alleviated Seoul’s concerns about its largest trading partner.
In an interview with the Financial Times, South Korea’s Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises, Kwon Chil-seung, said that CPTPP Has been resolved.
“The Ministry of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Ministry of Agriculture have been relatively cautious, but the decision to join the CPTPP was made internally at a collective government meeting,” he said. “This process may be delayed, but the overall direction has been determined.”
A South Korean Trade Ministry official said that it has not yet made a decision on when to submit the application.
CPTPP was signed in 2018 as the successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement negotiated by former US President Barack Obama to limit Beijing’s growing economic and political influence in the region.
Donald Trump made the United States withdraw from the agreement when he became president in 2017. TPP evolved into CPTPP, which was signed the following year, but not including the United States.
South Korea has been hesitant to join the two agreements, partly because of concerns about damaging relations with Beijing.
Ministers are also unwilling to anger important electoral districts in the country before the presidential election in March. Worried about increased foreign competition, South Koreans working in the agriculture, fishery, and SME sectors expressed opposition to joining the agreement.
But China itself Applications for Membership The CPTPP was established in September the day after the United States, Britain, and Australia announced a new military partnership aimed at countering Beijing’s military confidence in the region.Taiwan Applications for Membership Less than a week later.
Cheong Inkyo, a trade expert at Inha University, said: “Because the government is unwilling to take the risk of further opening up the market and there are only three months before the presidential election, this process seems to have been put on hold.”
“But now that China and some other countries have submitted applications, its sense of urgency has increased.”
A senior diplomat from a CPTPP country added: “The applications of China and Taiwan have changed the dynamics.”
According to the 2019 policy brief issued by the Washington-based think tank Peterson Institute for International Economics, South Korea will receive US$86 billion in revenue from members each year.
Former South Korean trade negotiator and professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Choi Byeong-il, said: “South Korea cannot always watch trade transfer to other countries and be excluded from the global supply chain.”
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One potential obstacle for South Korea is its difficult relationship with Japan.
These countries are involved in a WTO dispute In Japan’s wartime occupation of South Korea, Tokyo imposed export controls on South Korean semiconductor components in 2019.
A Japanese official told the Financial Times: “Japan’s views on South Korea’s application to join the CPTPP may be complicated.”
South Korea’s decision to join the agreement was made after a broader transition to a multilateral trade agreement, and the country has traditionally opted not to join the agreement. Seoul is ratifying the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which is a separate regional agreement led by China and includes 15 Asian countries.