The Korea Times - 29 March 2022
Farmers, fishermen strongly oppose Korea joining CPTPP
By Lee Kyung-min
A coalition of farmers and fishermen are against the government’s move to join a trade agreement with 11 countries in the trans-Pacific area, saying their livelihoods will be threatened greatly if Korea opens its market to global sellers of cheaper agricultural and marine products, according to industry analysts, Monday.
The agreement, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), is widely considered a critical step to bolstering the global standing of Korea’s manufacturing-centered, export-reliant economy.
This rationale is why some state think tanks, including the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP), and policymakers have been seeking to join the mega trade deal, saying that it could lead to annual GDP growth of between 0.33 and 0.35 percent, with about 3.6 trillion won ($2.9 billion) in benefits anticipated for Korea’s consumers. The combined trade volume of CPTPP member countries accounts for 15 percent of the world’s total trade volume.
A dozen groups representing the interests of farmers and fishermen, including the Korean Advanced Farmers Federation (KAFF), held a protest near the Sejong Government Complex, March 25, where a public hearing was scheduled by the government to present trade, market and economic growth implications of the CPTPP.
Some of the protestors stormed into the building, cutting short the sessions, which were being attended by policymakers, academics and industry officials.
They said that Korea’s traditional industries of agriculture and fishing are being cornered, with no countermeasures in place to offset their significant reductions or outright losses of income.
"Korea joining the CPTPP will lead to a massive inflow of cheaper foreign products into the local market," a KAFF official said. "The government is hastening the removal of import duties, citing the greater good of the country. All the while, workers in the traditional industries (of agriculture and fishing) are increasingly worried about their basic survival ― let alone of making ends meet," he added.
The coalition’s strong opposition is explained in part by the ratification of the similar but less invasive Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) last month. The RCEP is a trade agreement among 15 nations, including 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Korea will have to open 85 percent of its local agricultural market to overseas products under the RCEP, and the figure will spike to 95 percent under the CPTPP.