Don’t give up our edge in trade

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Don’t give up our edge in trade

Tensions over economic issues have begun to rise in the Pacific. The stage is a multilateral free trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and complicated negotiations between nations are likely to ensue.

U.S. President Barack Obama declared last year that his country would join the trade talks. And last week during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced that Japan will join the bandwagon. If the talks materialize, they will create a free trade zone of unprecedented scale that would encompass more than 70 percent of the global economy.

Given the scale of the project, China does not want to be ostracized from the talks. As Chinese officials have been mainly focused on a regional free trade pact with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, they fear a renewed alliance between the U.S. and Japan could undermine China’s economic power in the region.

Korea, which has been a leader in striking free trade accords with other countries for the last decade, has no reason not to join the TPP. If the framework takes root, all member economies will benefit.

Should China want to join, the United States and Japan should not attempt to exclude it from the TPP. The reason is simple: A free trade accord should maximize reciprocal economic benefits and should not be an instrument of geopolitical leverage among powerhouses.

Yet if China wants an invitation, it must also be ready to accept the rules of free and fair trade. It must commit to protecting intellectual property rights and put an end to artificial currency manipulation.

The forces opposing the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and other free trade deals in our country should take notice of the remarkable global current. The world is battling hard to get ahead in the free trade game. It would be foolish to give up on our edge in the contest because of immediate political interests.

Korea stands to benefit from the TPP. If it is successfully established, we will not have to go through the tiring process of individual talks with Japan and China over free trade pacts because a common set of free trade principles and rules in the Pacific could replace bilateral deals.

We hope that the U.S., Japan and China will not become embroiled in disputes over economic influence in the region and instead work together to develop an effective and beneficial free trade agreement. This would be the best outcome for all countries involved.
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