South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has officially announced to join the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
During a joint press conference with President Joe Biden, Yoon stressed the importance of the region and vowed to expand its contributions in the area.
"The Indo-Pacific is a region important to both South Korea and the U.S. We will work together to build a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. And taking that first step is to participate in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. We will also work to formulate strategies to expand our contributions and roles in the region."
The IPEF, which President Biden first proposed last October, seeks cooperation in four main areas: fair and resilient trade; supply chain resilience; infrastructure, clean energy, and decarbonization; and lastly taxation and anti-corruption.
Its purpose is to achieve regional cooperation on a wide range of issues, and not just trade.
"So it is not confined to economic or international issues concerning free trade and investment. It tries to encompass some many other free democratic societies characteristics, like freedom of speech and corruption, a more transparent society, including environmental issues, and global warming issues, and reduction of, you know, carbon consumption. So, it is a comprehensive, totally comprehensive kind of international framework. And that's why this time IPEF is completely different from previous arrangements like you know, FTA or RCEP or CPTPP."
The new U.S.-led economic pact will be joined by South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore countries that are also part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a mega trade bloc led by China.
The framework is widely viewed as part of Washington's efforts to counter China's growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
South Korea's government, however, dismissed those claims and said Seoul would closely communicate with Beijing.
It also added that discussions are under way with China for additional FTA negotiations.
Experts say that the government will not leave China out of its free trade talks.
"China is just too close, and it is just too big. China will always remain a major economic partner to Korea , and because China has grown so much as an economic power, there does need to be some rebalancing in the conditions of the FTA. So, there’ll probably need to be some modification, re-negotiation."
Min Suk-hyen, Arirang News.