SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korea says it will start negotiations to join a U.S.-led trade pact covering Pacific and Asian nations.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) South Korea says it will start negotiations to join a U.S.-led trade pact covering Pacific and Asian nations.

The finance ministry said in a statement Friday that South Korea will explore the possibility of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership through the preliminary negotiations.

The move is a first step and doesn't commit South Korea to becoming part of the agreement.

South Korea has been weighing the U.S.-led pact that aims to create a trade bloc among 12 countries including Japan, Canada, Mexico and Vietnam by the end of this year. The move faces strong opposition from South Korea farmers and the fishing industry.

Export-reliant South Korea has free trade deals with the U.S. and European Union. It is negotiating a free trade deal with China.