South Korea has 17 FTAs in force involving 57 countries, including most recently one with the United Kingdom and another with five Central American countries, based on data as of July 2021, according to a US Congressional report.
This country has also concluded, but has not yet ratified, negotiations on four additional agreements; and negotiations were underway on eight new or updated agreements, including with Mercosur, the South American trade bloc that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
South Korea’s trade deals include several of its major trading partners, including the United States, China and the European Union.
In addition, South Korea is a member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement, which it signed in November 2020.
The RCEP, which entered into force for South Korea in February 2022, is of particular interest to policymakers given its broad membership of 15 countries in East, Southeast Asia and Australasia, including South Korea, China, Japan, Australia , New Zealand and the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
South Korea does not currently participate in the other major Asia-Pacific regional trade initiative, the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
However, in December 2021, the Moon Jae-in government publicly announced its intention to take the necessary internal procedural steps to formally apply for CPTPP membership, preferably before Moon leaves office in May 2022.
TIPAT is the agreement that replaced the Trans-Pacific Partnership for Economic Cooperation (TPP), following the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the United States’ signature on the proposed TPP in 2017.
Some stakeholders in the United States, including several members of Congress, have urged the Biden Administration to reconsider possible US participation in TIPAT, but US officials have stated that the Administration does not intend to aspire to be TIPAT member at this time.
According to the US Congressional report, CPTPP participation by both South Korea and the United States could serve as a potential vehicle to upgrade elements of the KORUS FTA, such as digital trade.