President Park hints at South Korean membership in TPP trade deal

President of South Korea Park Geun Hye (left) participating in a full military honours parade at the Pentagon in Washington DC, on Oct 15, 2015.
President of South Korea Park Geun Hye (left) participating in a full military honours parade at the Pentagon in Washington DC, on Oct 15, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Park Geun Hye on Thursday (Oct 15) indicated that South Korea could join the recently agreed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade deal.

Park said that South Korea - which had initially opted out of the 12-member pact - was a "natural partner" for the bloc.

"Korea welcomes the TPP agreement reached last week," Park said in an address at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

"Having already signed trade agreements with 10 of the 12 TPP member countries, I believe Korea is a natural partner for the TPP."

South Korea had held back from joining the bloc, preferring to pursue a bilateral deal with China and others, raising some eyebrows in Washington.

Countries involved in the TPP are the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The deal is seen by some as a counterbalance to growing Chinese economic clout in the region.