SEOUL (REUTERS) – South Korea’s finance minister said on Monday (December 13th) that the country will begin preparations to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade bloc.

“South Korea will initiate relevant procedures based on discussions with various stakeholders to push for membership of the CPTPP,” Hong Nam-ki said at a political meeting in Seoul.

The CPTPP is a free trade agreement between Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Singapore.

In October, South Korean Commerce Minister Yeo Han-koo said the government is “seriously and actively considering” the issue.

The bids from China and Taiwan earlier this year to join the deal, originally designed by the United States to sideline Beijing, had left CPTPP members scrambling to calculate the benefits, or risks, of accept both or only one in the pact.

This development has also sparked renewed interest in the deal at a time when supply chain disruptions increase the importance of close trading relationships.

With an annual gross domestic product of US $ 1.64 trillion (S $ 2.24 trillion), South Korea would be the third economy to join the US $ 13.5 trillion trade pact after Japan and Canada .

Britain also applied to join this year.