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Korea suddenly wants in to TPP, resumes FTA talks with NZ

South Korea has suddenly emerged as willing would-be partner in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, as well as announcing today it was resuming negotiations with New Zealand on a free trade deal.

The Korean announcement coincided with the delivery of a 26,000-strong petition at the New Zealand Parliament today calling for less secrecy around the TPP talks, which may be moving to their conclusion as trade ministers from the 12 Pacific Rim countries so far involved in the talks prepare to meet in Bali later this month.

The move comes as Korean news media reports that China, which launched an alternative to TPP, the Regional Cooperative Economic Partnership (RCEP), may also be looking to join the TPP talks.

"The timing of Korea's admission to the negotiations will need to be further discussed. The first phase of TPP expansion is hopefully drawing to a close," said the chairman of the New Zealand International Business Forum, Sir Graeme Harrison. "The priority must be now on delivering a high quality, ambitious and comprehensive outcome. The bigger picture is that Korea's involvement in TPP will enhance the partnership's credibility as an instrument that can deliver a new framework for trade and investment in the Asia Pacific region."

New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser announced the resumption of stalled free trade talks with South Korea today, from Bali, after talks with his Korean counterpart, Trade Minister Yoon Sang-jick, ahead of talks that may jump-start the long-moribund World Trade Organisation Doha Round of global trade talks.

"The lack of a formal free trade agreement has been putting New Zealand at a disadvantage in the Korean market. For example, our beef and kiwifruit exporters face tariffs of 40 percent and 45 percent respectively, while some of our competitors are now entering the market tariff free or enjoying substantial preferences under their already concluded agreements with Korea. We are aiming in our negotiations to correct that imbalance."

Negotiations are scheduled to resume in February 2014

(BusinessDesk)