Korea to apply to join CPTPP in April

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Korea to apply to join CPTPP in April

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki at a government meeting on trade agreements including CPTPP in Seoul on Monday. [YONHAP]

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki at a government meeting on trade agreements including CPTPP in Seoul on Monday. [YONHAP]

Seoul will apply to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in April, just before the end of the Moon Jae-in administration.  
 
During a government meeting Monday, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the government will speed up the process including convincing the public of the benefits of joining the multilateral free trade pact, and work on measures that would cushion the impact on vulnerable industries including agriculture.  
 
Earlier this month, the government decided to join the CPTPP, a trade pact signed in 2018 among 11 countries -- Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- with combined GDPs of $11.2 trillion,12.8 percent of the global GDP.
 
After China applied for membership in September, it was easier diplomatically for Korea to apply. The CPTPP was initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010 and was meant to limit China’s influence in the region.     
 
Hong said Dec. 13 that the CPTPP membership discussion could no longer be put off considering the benefits it would bring.  
 
According to the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, trade by the 11 countries amounted to $5.7 trillion as of 2019, 15.2 percent of global trade volume.  
 
Korea’s exports to the 11 countries account for 23.2 percent of its total exports while imports account for 24.8 percent of its total imports.
 
There was also speculation that the Moon administration was dragging its heels on a decision because of a possible impact on the presidential election in March.
 
The CPTPP is unpopular with small businesses that rely on the domestic market because they will have to compete with cheaper imports.  
 
Farmers and fishermen are particularly opposed to more open borders for their industries. 
 
Hong said Monday that the Korean government will decide on whether to participate in the U.S. led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework that the Joe Biden administration proposed in October, weighing the diplomatic and national security factors as well as its effect on Korean companies.  
 
The Indo-Pacific economic cooperation bloc is an alternative to the CPTPP, which the Donald Trump administration pulled out of in 2017.  

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]
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