Updated December. 18, 2010 10:54
The U.S. has officially requested that Korea join the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a multilateral free trade deal among Asia-Pacific economies, and Seoul will study the pros and cons of joining early next year.
The agreement includes free trade of agricultural products.
A senior Korean government official Friday confirmed that Washington made the request and that Seoul sent a signal suggesting that it will consider the offer.
Korea will have the state-funded Korea Institute for International Economic Policy conduct a preliminary study of the agreements potential impact on the Korean economy. Seoul will also use the offer to pressure Washington to quickly ratify their bilateral free trade agreement.
The U.S. is actively pushing for the trans-Pacific deal. U.S. President Barack Obama expressed hope that the agreement will be signed at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hawaii in November next year.
Most experts say the U.S. aims to check rapidly growing China and establish an economic foothold in the region.
With the regional agreement to create a giant economic bloc spanning the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru and Singapore, Korea cannot afford to gloss over it.
An official at the Korean Strategy and Finance Ministry said it is premature to discuss active participation in the deal because Seoul has signed bilateral free trade agreements with several of the countries in the regional accord, and because it would involve opening Koreas agricultural market to imports.
But participating in multilateral deals is taking the right direction over the long term because seeking bilateral free trade agreements is very costly, the official said.