SEOUL, March 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will decide whether to join the fledgling Pacific trade pact within the first half of the year after looking into its impact on the national economy and consulting with member states, Seoul's chief economic policymaker said Monday.
A year after U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11 remaining member states last week signed a revamped deal, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), in Chile.
The agreement that aims to slash tariffs on goods to stimulate trade, will come into force after it is fully ratified by six of the 11 members, which include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The countries represent 13.5 percent of global gross domestic product, a total of $10 trillion.
"Within the first half of the year, (the government) will decide whether to join, after discussion among government agencies, and will take steps for domestic procedures, if necessary," Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said in an economy-related ministers meeting.
"We will closely monitor other countries' moves as well."
The trade ministry said earlier the new pact would have a very limited impact on the national economy in the short term, considering the schedule of its implementation.
South Korea has been in preliminary negotiations to participate as an associate member in the Pacific Alliance trade bloc comprised of Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia.
For Seoul, an associate membership in the alliance could be similar in effect to a trade pact with Mexico.
South Korea has already signed FTAs with Chile, Peru and Colombia but has yet to do the same with Mexico, which is the largest economy in the alliance.
Seoul will, moreover, open talks on forging a trade pact with Mercosur, South America's leading trading bloc, composed of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, in the first half of this year.
The bloc's combined market encompasses more than 290 million people and accounts for $2.7 trillion, or more than three-quarters of the economic activity on the southern continent, according to ministry data.
Meanwhile, the finance minister said the government will make a concerted effort to deal with the U.S.'s hefty steel tariffs.
"The government will mobilize all viable options to handle the issue," Kim said.
On Sunday, Kim sent a letter to his U.S. counterpart to urge Washington to exempt South Korea from stiff steel tariffs that could seriously impact exports.
The letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed concerns over the move to impose 25 percent tariffs on imported steel products. South Korea is the third largest exporter of steel products to the U.S. after Canada and Brazil.
On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a measure authorizing the hefty duties to be placed on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff imposed on aluminum, although he excluded Canada and Mexico.
Australia may also be exempted from paying extra tariffs on its steel products, as the world's No. 1 economy left open the possibility of other countries that are friendly to the United States being exempted. The stiff tariffs will take effect 15 days after March 8 (U.S. time).
Kim is expected to meet the treasury secretary at the G20 finance ministers meeting slated for March 19-20 in Argentina. At the upcoming meeting the two officials are expected to touch on such issues as tariffs and other outstanding matters that affect both countries.
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