South Korea plans to enter into preliminary negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact and will inform the main countries involved of its intention, Yonhap news agency quoted the finance minister as saying on Friday.
"We will express our interest in the TPP," Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok was quoted as telling reporters, referring to the trade negotiations. "We will enter into preliminary talks."
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The TPP, which would include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam in addition to the United States, would establish a free-trade bloc stretching across a region that makes up nearly 40 percent of the global economy.
The negotiations, which have been going on for three years, have been mired in controversy over a lack of transparency and slowed by the conflicting interests of the negotiating countries, U.S. lawmakers and advocacy groups.
South Korea, the world's 15th-largest economy and seventh-largest exporter, has signed bilateral free trade agreements with both the United States and the European Union.
It has until now said it would focus on pending free trade talks, including those with China and Australia, before deciding on TPP.
(Reporting by Choonsik Yoo; Editing by Robert Birsel)