With the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) provisionally concluded on Nov. 4, much attention is being paid to South Korea’s participation in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). South Korea decided last year to join the CPTPP, but the matter is now up in the air with its bilateral relations with Japan deteriorating.
The CPTPP was previously the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Negotiations for the TPP started in 2015 but the United States withdrew from the negotiations in 2017 and then the CPTPP, led by Japan, took its place late last year.
The CPTPP has 11 members, including Canada, Australia, Singapore and Vietnam. The total population of the member states is approximately 690 million and the states account for 12.9 percent and 14.9 percent of the total GDP of the world and the global total trade volume, respectively.
Earlier, the South Korean government reached a conclusion that its accession to the CPTPP does more good than harm for the domestic economy, industries, finance and employment of South Korea. However, negotiations for the accession came to a halt with Japan’s export curbs against South Korea.
Nonetheless, experts point out that South Korea should join the CPTPP with its competition with Japan unavoidable and Japan already a member of the RCEP and the CPTPP alike. “South Korea can get the upper hand over Japan in terms of free trade in the Asia-Pacific region if South Korea, which is a member of the RCEP, joins the CPTPP,” one of them explained, adding, “This is because the CPTPP significantly surpasses the RCEP in terms of the degree of tariff reduction and it is a multilateral channel enabling a very effective response to the United States’ and China’s unilateral trade pressure.”
“It is rather risky to rely solely on the RCEP because the United States can rejoin the CPTPP at any time, and the CPTPP membership can be of help in coping with global economic uncertainties and securing overseas markets,” another said, adding that South Korea’s final aim should be a free trade zone covering the entire Asia-Pacific region including the United States.