President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday that the government will consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership as part of its drive to expand the country’s free trade partners.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the 57th Trade Day, Moon said the government will expand South Korea’s free trade network to prepare the country for increasing competition, and that the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership remains an option.
“Joining the CPTPP will continue to be reviewed. In addition, (Korea will) proactively take part in discussions for reviving free trade and multilateralism and to lower trade barriers in international communities such as the WTO and G20,” Moon said, adding that his administration will seek to expand Korea’s network of free trade agreements.
The agreement in its previous form, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was led by the US, but the new pact was formed after US President Donald Trump pulled his country out. Although 11 countries joined, Korea did not, having already established bilateral free trade agreements with nine of the signatories by 2015. The two exceptions were Japan and Mexico.
The possibility of Korea joining was reignited last month after Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential election and the signing of the finalized Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
With China considered to be the driving force behind the RCEP and Biden expected to soften Washington’s protectionist stance, speculation rose that Seoul might face pressure to join the CPTTP.
In Tuesday’s speech Moon also touched on other ongoing FTA negotiations, saying the government will seek to wrap up those talks as soon as possible.
“The FTA network will be expanded with the focus on New Southern and New Northern nations that have immense potential,” Moon said. The New Southern and New Northern nations refer to nations covered by the Moon administration’s New Southern Policy -- which concerns nations to the south and southwest of Korea -- and its New Northern Policy, which focuses on nations to the north.
Moon said the government will seek to complete FTA talks with Indonesia and Israel within the year, and will speed up related processes with Cambodia, India, Uzbekistan and the Philippines.
Moon also emphasized the need for Korea to become eco-friendly and to boost its capabilities in digital trade.
Calling carbon neutrality a “trend that cannot be defied,” Moon said international business is not an exception.
“A border tax on carbon is being discussed in the US, and in the EU. Our export businesses must achieve energy transformation, and secure eco-friendly infrastructure,” Moon said, pledging that the government will support related efforts by corporations.
Moon also pledged all-out government support for digital trade, saying that field is growing rapidly as the world deals with the pandemic.
“(The government) will nurture a global export platform, and overhaul the export support system to suit the digital trade era,” Moon said.
“In particular, 10,000 exporting SMEs and startups will be selected each year and given support to enter the global market through digital trade.”
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com