South Korean President Park Geun-hye plans to express Seoul’s desire to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership when she meets with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday, a source familiar with Japan-South Korea relations said.
Park is expected to seek Japan’s cooperation for entering the U.S.-led free trade initiative, which also involves 11 other Pacific Rim economies, because each must agree to opening negotiations with Seoul to fix the terms for its entry.
The TPP members account for about 40 percent of the global economy.
Earlier this week, officials from the two countries held preparatory talks for what will be the first one-on-one meeting between Abe and Park since they took office in 2012 and 2013, respectively, and agreed to put the TPP on the summit agenda, the source said Friday.
“South Korea is likely to raise the issue,” the source said. “To join the TPP, it needs cooperation from Japan, a major (TPP) country.”
At the summit, Park is expected to welcome the broad TPP agreement that was struck in early October by all 12 members.
Abe plans to tell Park that a country wishing to join the group needs to fulfill high standards of trade liberalization and other facilitation measures. And he will add that Japan will closely watch what South Korea is prepared to offer.
If Seoul starts negotiations, it is expected to face tough demands. For example, Tokyo is likely to press for the elimination of tariffs for Japanese automobiles and import restrictions on farm products.
Still, calls are growing in South Korea to join the TPP, primarily because staying outside the trade bloc would undermine its competitiveness against Japan. The two countries compete in many industrial areas.
In a meeting Oct. 16 with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, Park conveyed Seoul’s desire to join the TPP, noting that South Korea has concluded a high-standard FTA with the United States, indicating its fitness to join the TPP.
The TPP groups the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Peru, Canada, Japan, Malaysia and Mexico.