May 20, 2022
Yoon Suk-yeol

South Korea’s incoming government has denied reports it has decided to sign up to an Indo-Pacific economic pact planned by the US, but confirmed it is “positively considering” joining the agreement.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is expected to launch imminently, aimed at filling the gap left by Donald Trump’s withdrawal from negotiation over the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which reduced US influence in the region.

The Asia Business Daily reported that incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol’s government had already decided to join the pact, but a finance ministry official confirmed that whilst the move is being considered no decision has been made yet.

“It is listed in 110 national tasks that the incoming government is positively considering,” said the official, speaking anonymously. Participation in the pact was considered in reviews performed by Yoon’s transition team, they added.

Yoon, who is set to be sworn in on Tuesday, has expressed his desire for South Korea to play a major role in shaping the regional economy, and is understood to very interested in joining both the IPEF and the CPTPP, as well reviving a third proposed agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Having signaled an intention to build closer ties with the US, the IPEF is believed to be Yoon’s priority.

The US has been seeking support for the pact from a number of major economies in the Asia-Pacific region, with Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore all invited to participate in discussions. A launch is expected to be announced following President Biden’s visits to Japan and South Korea at the end of this month.