US, S. Korea Begin Kicking Tires On Trade Deal Retooling

South Korea US US Korea talks trade talks trade deals US trade deal free trade agreement Robert Lighthizer

South Korea proposed that experts from the two nations conduct a study on the effects of their trade pact and the cause of USA trade deficits with South Korea.

Trade Minister Kim Hyung-chong said Seoul proposed a joint study with Washington to evaluate the impact of the 5-year-old bilateral trade deal and the cause of the USA trade deficit.

Negotiators from the U.S. and South Korea will meet this week in Seoul, a session that is to discuss potentially amending the five-year-old U.S. -Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

"For many, many years, the United States has suffered through massive trade defici ts. we'll be changing that", Trump said during a June 30 summit with new South Korean President Moon Jae-In.

Mr. Moon and others on the Korean side say the deal-which has removed 95% of tariffs on goods over the past five years, with remaining duties to be phased out over the next 10 years-has offset the global slowdown in trade and increased commerce between the US and South Korea.

Although South Korea argued that the FTA has contributed to the economic growth of both countries, Washington said that it ran a trade deficit with Seoul of $27.7 billion in 2016, nearly twice as much as the 2012 deficit of $16.6 billion, when the treaty entered into force.

The value of USA goods exported to Korea fell 0.03 percent from $43.5 billion in 2011 to $42.3 billion in 2016, the report said.

Concerned with the ever-growing trade deficits with various countries, USA is seeking to renegotiate its trade deals with various countries. "We made our position clear that investigation, analysis and evaluation of the impact of the Korea-U.S. FTA must be preceded".

"I think it's better that we maintain the agreement because it's a win-win", said Kim during his meeting with the Ministry of SMEs.

It appears that the automobile and steel industries will be targeted for changes.

But Seoul argued that the bilateral accord is not the cause of the trade imbalance, citing the 30% decline on the year in the country's trade surplus with the US over the first half of this year. Mr Kim said previous year that the deal was a "slam dunk shot" for the US.

Seoul maintains that the deal has been mutually beneficial, with exports of American beef to South Korea rising, saying last month that it would not necessarily renegotiate terms. The Trump administration is conducting a probe that could result in broad barriers against global steel imports. In addition, the Trump administration is focused more on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. Kim said Seoul will be waiting for Washington's response to its proposal for the joint study. Countries such as Japan that have large trade surpluses with the USA are watching on with interest.


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