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South Korea happy to join TPP but China has priority

Staff writer |
South Korea would like to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but its negotiations seeking a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with China will take priority over joining the TPP.

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The Trade Ministry of South Korea said that the Korean government "will first push for a South Korea-China FTA as a bridgehead for expanding presence in Chinese markets, while considering joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership," the Wall Street Journal reported.

South Korea has been an advocate of free trade, which the TPP aims to regulate, but it has thus far focused on bilateral deals, as multilateral agreements like the TPP are complex and slow to come to fruition. It has separate free trade pacts with the U.S., E.U., Chile, India, Peru, Singapore, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Free Trade Association.

The nation hopes to come to new trading terms with its biggest trade partner, China, which absorbed 26 percent of South Korea's exports last year, according to South Korea's Trade Ministry. The bilateral trade between the neighboring countries reached $221 billion. The free trade talks have been ongoing since May 2012.

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