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Former US trade representative urges Korea to join CPTPP

By Yim Hyun-su

Published : March 31, 2021 - 18:53

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The 1st CPTPP Trade Forum was attended by KCCI Executive Vice Chairman Woo Tae-hee, MOTIE Bureau of FTA Negotiations Director-General Kim Jung-hoi, President Bark Tae-ho of Lee & Ko GCI alongside other participants from academia and the industry. (KCCI) The 1st CPTPP Trade Forum was attended by KCCI Executive Vice Chairman Woo Tae-hee, MOTIE Bureau of FTA Negotiations Director-General Kim Jung-hoi, President Bark Tae-ho of Lee & Ko GCI alongside other participants from academia and the industry. (KCCI)
Former acting deputy US trade representative Wendy Cutler said on Wednesday that Korea should consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and wait for the US to follow suit.

“Korea was one of the major negotiating partners for the TPP, but missed the opportunity because it waited for too long,” Cutler said during the 1st CPTPP Trade Forum organized by the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She attended the session via virtual link.

“The time seems ripe for Korea to reconsider CPTPP accession,” said Cutler, who was the chief US negotiator for the Korea-US free trade agreement. The reasons she cited was the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the start of the CPTPP accession process for the UK and potential interest from China in joining the agreement.

While urging Korea to join the trading bloc, she said there has been “no indications” that the Biden administration is ready to enter the agreement, as it is currently focusing on domestic issues such as responding to COVID-19 and getting the economy back on track. She also added it would be “preferable for Korea to consider joining the CPTPP regardless of the US.”

Her remarks come after the Finance Ministry said in January it was “actively” considering joining the CPTPP.

“This is a must-go path to advance the domestic trade system to meet international norms and to respond to the acceleration of the post-COVID-19 digital economy,” said Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki during a meeting earlier this year.

“Under a vision to have a free trade network to cover around 90 percent of the world’s combined GDP, we will actively pursue more agreements,” he said at the time.

Speaking at the event, Ahn Duk-geun, a professor at Seoul National University, also said the CPTPP membership will be a “valuable asset” for Korea.

“The CPTPP membership will be a valuable asset that Korea can use to boost its negotiating power, given the possibility of a new economic partnership based on trade agreements led by the US such as the USMCA,” he said.

KCCI Executive Vice Chairman Woo Tae-hee, who presided over the forum, said Korea would have to open its market further than its previous members since it will be joining at a later stage but added it will be an opportunity to “strengthen its economic fundamentals.”

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy Bureau of FTA Negotiations Director-General Kim Jung-hoi and President Bark Tae-ho of the Lee & Ko Global Commerce Institute were also present at the event alongside other participants from academia and the industry.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)