Fri, Oct 06, 2017 - Page 10 News List

South Korea, US to push forward on trade talks

Reuters, WASHINGTON

South Korea on Wednesday said it was open to talks on revising a 2012 free-trade agreement (FTA) with the US after initial differences that followed US President Donald Trump’s threat to terminate the accord unless it was renegotiated.

After a day of talks in Washington, the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement: “The two sides recognized the need to amend the FTA to enhance mutual benefits of the KORUS [Korea-US] FTA.”

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the US looked forward to stepped-up talks “to resolve outstanding implementation issues as well as to engage soon on amendments that will lead to fair, reciprocal trade.”

The statements mark a shift from an initial meeting in August, when the two sides failed to agree on next steps after Lighthizer had made demands to amend the agreement to reduce the US trade deficit with South Korea.

Since the trade agreement went into effect in 2012, the US goods trade deficit with South Korea more than doubled to US$27.6 billion last year.

However, through July this year, the bilateral trade deficit fell to US$13.1 billion from US$18.8 billion during the same period of last year, according to US Census Bureau data.

The push to alter the deal comes at a difficult time for Seoul. Relations with its largest export market, China, have soured over the decision to allow the US to deploy a missile shield south of Seoul, and there is no sign that North Korea or the US are interested in trying to negotiate an end to the current tensions.

No date was given for a third round of talks between the two nations, which comes as Lighthizer is also focused on revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

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