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S. Korea to 'actively' consider joining CPTPP this year

All News 10:30 January 11, 2021

By Kim Soo-yeon

SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Monday it plans to "actively" consider joining a mega Asia-Pacific free trade agreement (FTA) initiated again by the United States in an effort to diversify the country's export portfolio amid growing trade protectionism.

The country will also pick strategically important countries for economic cooperation and map out tailored measures to support local firms' overseas push, the finance ministry said in a joint government statement on external economic policies for this year.

"To support a fast economic recovery and local firms' entry into overseas markets, there is a need to back up Korean companies' drive to open sales channels and brace for new trade environments," the ministry said.

The country plans to "actively" review the joining of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as part of its efforts to expand mega FTAs in the Asia-Pacific region.

This file photo, taken June 4, 2020, shows stacks of import-export cargo containers at South Korea's largest seaport in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

CPTPP is the renegotiated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) led by the U.S. Obama administration but abandoned by President Donald Trump.

The incoming Biden administration may join CPTPP, which currently involves 11 nations, and Washington also may ask Seoul to become a member of the trade deal in a bid to build its own trade and supply chain network.

The deal looks significant as it will support South Korea's efforts to lower trade barriers amid looming protectionism sparked by a trade row between the U.S. and China, coupled with Seoul-Tokyo trade friction.

The country will also seek to complete the domestic procedure this year for the implementation of another mega FTA, called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the ministry said.

In November 2020, Seoul signed the China-initiated deal RCEP that could create an economic bloc accounting for one-third of the world's gross domestic product. The deal requires parliamentary ratification for implementation.

In an effort to expand trading partners, the country will also seek to expand FTAs with emerging countries, setting its sights on Southeast Asian countries, Russia, Central Asian countries, and Central and South American nations.

South Korea, which depends on the U.S. and China for 40 percent of its exports, has already been making efforts to diversify its trade portfolio and penetrate deeper into Southeast Asian countries.

The country will also select strategically important nations in pursuing economic cooperation in four key fields -- infrastructure, urban development, eco-friendly energy and health care.

The move is aimed at concentrating on support for local firms' foray into overseas markets. Details will be unveiled in the first half, the ministry said.

The government will also seek strategic cooperation with the new U.S. administration in five sectors -- climate change, COVID-19 responses, digital and green New Deal initiatives, advanced technologies, and multilateralism.

It plans to strengthen communication as well in major bilateral trade issues, such as countervailing duties and digital tax.

S. Korea to 'actively' consider joining CPTPP this year - 2

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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