Jan. 19 (UPI) — A South Korean think tank recommended that Seoul join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership at the earliest opportunity, ahead of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
State-owned Korea Development Institute said Tuesday in a report on the international trade environment that Seoul could reduce its dependence on China as a trading partner by joining the multilateral agreement that replaced the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Hankook Ilbo and CBS No Cut News reported.
In 2017 President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal proposed by his predecessor Barack Obama. CPTPP was created in 2018 with countries that included Japan, Canada and Australia as leading members.
South Korea did not join CPTPP at the time, but under Biden, the United States could be seeking to revive the deal, KDI said.
Under the new U.S. president, the CPTPP would promote multilateralism in trade, compliance with international norms, and the strengthening of labor and environmental standards, the South Korean report said.
Last year, reports suggested China was interested in joining a U.S.-led CPTPP. More recently Chinese leader Xi Jinping stressed the importance of domestic demand and “smoothing out internal circulation,” raising concerns in Seoul its biggest trading partner could be becoming less reliable, according to reports.
China also has raised fears in South Korea of a more politicized trading environment after movements in China led to boycotts of South Korean businesses.
China also embargoed South Korea’s tourism industry after Seoul decided to deploy a U.S. missile defense system on the peninsula. Korea needs to diversify its trading environment, KDI said.
The recommendation from the South Korean think tank to the administration of President Moon Jae-in comes after senior official Hong Nam-ki said the government would “actively consider” joining CPTPP.
South Korea also is a member of RCEP, a China-led trade pact.