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South Korea's incoming govt considers joining U.S. economic pact

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By Joori Roh

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea is “positively considering” joining an Indo-Pacific economic pact planned by the United States, a government official said on Monday, after domestic media said the incoming administration had decided to join as a founding member.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) could launch as soon this month, to fill a gap in engagement with the region since 2017, when then President Donald Trump quit a multinational deal that became the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

“It is listed in 110 national tasks that the incoming government is positively considering,” said a South Korean finance ministry official, who sought anonymity in line with government practice.

The remarks came after the Asia Business Daily, citing government sources, said the government of President Yoon Suk-yeol, who is set to be sworn in on Tuesday, had decided to join the pact on its launch.

The launch is expected after a visit from May 20 to 24 by President Joe Biden to Japan and South Korea, where Yoon’s incoming administration has signalled it seeks closer alignment with the U.S.-led trade and diplomatic order.

Participation in the pact was one of the aspects considered in the reviews performed by Yoon’s transition team, added the official, who declined to confirm the media report, however.

The daily said the United States seeks the participation of major regional economies, from Australia and Japan to New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

Yoon’s government wants South Korea to “lead trade conditions in the Indo-Pacific region” by joining both key pacts and seeking to revive a third, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a transition panel document showed.

(Reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)