South Korea plans to have a series of bilateral talks with countries taking part in negotiations for a US-led regional free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Deputy Trade Minister Choi Kyong-lim and his Canadian counterpart will have talks in Ottawa, Canada on Friday (Seoul time) to discuss Korea joining the TPP. The talks will be followed by talks with Australia on January 11. Bilateral talks with Brunei and New Zealand are also scheduled for next week, while talks with Japan and Vietnam are expected to take place later this month or in early March.
The Korean government expressed its interest in joining the TPP late last year. Since then, the country has had preliminary bilateral discussions about its participation with six countries, including the US and Chile. The TPP, which is widely viewed as a US counter to a rising China, now involve 12 countries.
An official declaration of its participation would be followed by a fresh round of bilateral negotiations with other participating countries to set the terms for its membership.
South Korea believes its membership in the US-led TPP will enhance its role as a bridge between advanced and developing economies, as it is already taking part in negotiations for another regional FTA, known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which is led by China and involves 16 countries, including all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.