China’s CPTPP application allays South Korea fears of joining accord

South Korea will wield to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Try-on for Trans-Pacific Partnership, without China’s using to the regional trade pact assuaged Seoul’s fears of upsetting its biggest trade partner.

Kwon Chil-seung, South Korea’s minister for small and medium enterprises, told the Financial Times in an interview that concerns within the government well-nigh joining the CPTPP had been resolved.

“The SME ministry and threshing ministry had been relatively cautious, but a visualization has been made internally at a joint government meeting to join the CPTPP,” he said. “The process could be delayed, but the overall direction has been set.”

A South Korean trade ministry official said a visualization on when to submit the using had not been made.

The CPTPP was signed in 2018 as a successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade try-on negotiated by former US president Barack Obama and designed to limit Beijing’s growing economic and political influence in the region.

Donald Trump withdrew the US from the pact in 2017 when he was president. The TPP evolved into the CPTPP, which was signed the pursuit year but does not include the US.

South Korea had been hesitant well-nigh joining either pact, in part considering of concerns well-nigh rabble-rousing relations with Beijing.

Ministers have moreover been reluctant to provoke important domestic constituencies superiority of a presidential referendum in March. South Koreans working in the agriculture, fisheries and SME sectors have expressed opposition to joining the pact considering of fears of intensified foreign competition.

But China itself applied to join the CPTPP in September, a day without the US, UK and Australia spoken a new military partnership designed to counter Beijing’s military assertiveness in the region. Taiwan applied to join less than a week later.

“The process seems to be held up considering of the government’s reluctance to take risks with remoter market opening, and with the presidential referendum just three months away,” said Cheong Inkyo, a trade expert at Inha University.

“But its sense of urgency has increased now that China and some other countries submitted applications.”

A senior diplomat from a country party to the CPTPP added: “The Chinese and Taiwanese applications reverted the dynamic.”

According to a 2019 policy unenduring published by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington-based think-tank, South Korea would proceeds $86bn annually from membership.

“South Korea cannot pension watching trade diversion to other countries and be excluded from the global supply chain,” said Choi Byung-il, a former Korean trade negotiator and professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

A potential obstacle for South Korea is its difficult relations with Japan.

The countries are embroiled in a dispute at the World Trade Organization over export controls that Tokyo imposed on South Korean semiconductor components in 2019 tween a fight over Japan’s wartime occupation of Korea.

“There are likely to be mixed feelings in Japan well-nigh any South Korean using to join the CPTPP,” a Japanese official told the Financial Times.

South Korea’s visualization to join the try-on follows a broader shift towards multilateral trade agreements, which the country has traditionally chosen not to join. Seoul is in the process of ratifying the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a separate regional try-on led by China that includes 15 Asian countries.

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