Published : 2013-10-03 20:32
Updated : 2013-10-03 20:32
President Park Geun-hye is expected to disclose her government’s position on joining the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed multilateral free trade agreement by some Asia-Pacific countries, next week.
Ju Chul-ki, Park’s senior secretary for foreign affairs, said Thursday that the president could mention the issue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum next week in Bali, Indonesia.
“The government has been studying the possibility (of joining the trade talks),” Ju said. “Since many of the countries in the TPP talks are APEC members, it will expand cooperation within the Asia-Pacific region,” Yonhap News quoted him as saying.
The official made the comments in response to a report by Inside U.S. Trade, a magazine specializing in trade issues, that the Korean government had “almost officially decided to take part in the TPP,” quoting Korean government sources.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, however, said no decision had been reached.
“The government’s policy on the TPP is yet undecided,” said an official of the ministry’s trade sector.
The ministry will first review the current progress of the TPP, as well as its effect on Korea’s already-effectuated trade agreements or other major ongoing negotiations such as the Korea-China bilateral Free Trade Agreement, the official said.
The report in the U.S. magazine was seen by observers here to add to political pressure from the United States for Korea to join the TPP.
Acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler said earlier last month that it was “natural and logical for Korea to join the negotiations” as the pact had much to offer.
The MOTIE had in the past been passive over the trans-Pacific trade pact, claiming that it would bring few benefits to Korea which already has a highly-binding bilateral FTA with the United States.
However, as Japan and the U.S. recently geared up the TPP timeline and pledged to wrap up the negotiations within the year, concerns mounted that Korea may fall behind in the world trade order unless it joins the TPP group.
The Trans-Pacific trade pact, once effectuated, is to incorporate some $27 trillion, or 38 percent or more, of the world’s total economy.