The government of South Korea recently indicated its intent to become a member of the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. It would be the 13th nation to join the talks. The TPP is a multilateral trade pact aimed at reducing trade barriers and tariffs, and also includes provisions to improve intellectual property rights and environmental protection and labor laws. Though South Korea has only stated plans to join the preliminary negotiations, the Korean Trade Ministry seems fully in favor of seeking full participation in the TPP and is expected to do so soon.
Countries currently involved in TPP negotiations are the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Chile. Together, these countries comprise roughly 40% of the global GDP. South Korea is the world’s 7th largest exporter and 15th largest economy, as well as being the United States’ 7th largest two-way trading partner. The US supports Korea joining the TPP, as noted by Vice President Biden in his visit to Seoul last week. Having Korea as a member will not only contribute positively to the pact, but will also strengthen or expand some of the provisions already present in the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement that went into effect last year.