US hoping South Korea will join trans-pacific partnership

Posted on : 2013-03-21 15:23 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
To counter China, US is seeking to expand its presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and wants SK as a partner
 Assistant US Trade Representative for Korea
Assistant US Trade Representative for Korea

By Park Hyun and Seong Yeon-cheol, Washington and Beijing correspondents, and Lee Jeong-hun, staff reporter

Following Japan’s recent announcement that it will join in negotiations of the US-led Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP), the US and China are picking up the pace in staking their claims on Asian economic territory. The US is encouraging South Korea to join in the TPP, which has pressured China into spurring discussions of a trilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between China, Japan, and South Korea.

At a Korea Society lecture in New York on Mar. 19 (EST), Assistant US Trade Representative for Korea, Japan and APEC Affairs Wendy Cutler said, “We believe that Korea could be a natural member of the TransPacific Partnership negotiations. We look forward to continuing our working relationship with Korea and keeping them updated on

the TPP, so should they decide it’s in their interest to join these regional negotiations, they will be ready,” Cutler said.

She explained that the negotiations would address issues that had not been dealt with in the KORUS FTA, including integration of various regulations, state-operated firms and SMEs. “We believe these are all important issues for both the United States and Korea,” Cutler said.

Presently, five countries in the Americas (US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, and Chile) and seven countries in Asia (Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Vietnam, and Brunei) are taking part in the TPP talks. The US intends to wrap up the negotiations this year if possible. The TPP is aimed at opening up the markets substantially, just as the KORUS FTA did.

It appears that underlying the US’s encouragement of Korea to participate in the negotiations is the intention to become more closely involved in commerce in Asia. Indeed, since last year, the Obama administration has pursued the policy of a ‘pivot to Asia’, but the fact that the US has not been able to bring the Asian economic heavyweights of Japan and South Korea into the TPP negotiations has been a sore spot. Now that Japan has indicated it will take part, South Korea is in effect the only country left to convince.

In response, China is pulling out all the stops in pursuit of the China-Japan-South Korea FTA. It is also putting work into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia (CEPEA), which would include not only China, Japan, and South Korea but also the ten countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), along with India, Australia, and New Zealand.

“Three rounds of negotiations will take place this year for the China-Japan-South Korea FTA, and the first meeting will be held in Seoul on Mar. 26-28,” said Shen Danyang, spokesperson for the Chinese Commerce Ministry, at a press conference held on Mar. 19. “The trilateral FTA will be to the advantage of all parties and will promote peace and stability in the region,” Shen added.

Since the South Korean and Japanese economies are much larger in scale than ASEAN, which represents the other axis of Asian commerce, China is putting much more effort into the China-Japan-South Korea FTA, reports say.

“Because of strained relations with Japan, China is very hopeful that Korea may be the solution to finding a breakthrough in the negotiations,” said a trade official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) said.

The Chinese believe that the US is supporting the TPP with the hope of expanding its economic influence in Asia in order to counter China. Not only has the US chosen not to make any official overtures to China about taking part in the TPP, but the agreement mandates various standards in areas such as labor, the environment, intellectual property rights, and state-run businesses that would be difficult for China to meet. For these and other reasons, China finds the TPP distasteful.

“We are observing the direction of the TPP negotiations and are planning to review the option of taking part,” said Choi Kyung-lim, deputy minister negotiator for FTAs in MOFAT.

“In a situation where Korea is being confronted with rules that are difficult to harmonize with each other, it is important for strategic judgments to be made that can effectively preserve balance on both sides,” said Sohn Yul, a professor at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies.


Please direct questions or comments to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles