Saturday, 23 September, 2017

South Korea says unclear if FTA is cause of trade imbalance

Robert E. Lighthizer head of United States Trade Representative demanded that a special joint committee meeting be held in Washington DC next month US to renegotiate Korea trade deal
Lillian Steele | 14 July, 2017, 00:43

Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy argued that the FTA is essential for USA companies and that the US action was not totally unpredictable.

"We will meet and discuss mutual interests and concerns".

Robert Lighthizer said in a letter Wednesday to South Korean Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan that the United States wants to meet in order to discuss "possible amendments and modifications" to the pact that that went into effect five years ago under President.

The move comes two weeks after Trump and his advisers criticized South Korea's trade practices in front of its president, Moon Jae-in, while facing cameras at the White House. "We can and must do better", Lighthizer said in a statement.

"We will clarify its position to check whether or not the Korea-US FTA is the cause of the trade imbalance between the two countries by jointly investigating, analyzing and evaluating the effects of the Korea-US FTA, as we proposed during the Korea-US summit at the end of June", said the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, adding, "The US government is now asking not for a renegotiation to review and change the whole agreement from the beginning, but for starting negotiations to decide whether to revise the agreement, a Korean government official explained".

The US free trade agreement with South Korea, known as Korus, went into force in March 2012, since when Washington says its trade deficit with the country has more than doubled, from $13.2 billion in 2011 to $27.6 billion past year.

The administration has called for a joint session on the subject to occur within 30 days.

Specifying the trade status of the two countries, Moon also reportedly said, "In the past five years since the FTA was effectuated, our auto exports to the United States in fact decreased".

"The two countries will talk about issues that they are concerned with, but that doesn't mean the two parties have started a renegotiation", a ministry official told reporters on Thursday. In particular, "The special joint committee can consider an amendment to the KORUS FTA or revise the agreement and interpret provisions", the USTR added.

The ministry said it would like to delay the meeting since the post of chief trade negotiator for Korea is vacant due to the delay in appointments by the new administration of Moon Jae-in.

In an interview earlier this year, Trump called the deal "horrible" and a "one-way street".

The US Chamber of Commerce also released a press statement Thursday in defense of the KORUS FTA, saying the agreement has "supported American exports such as agricultural products, manufactured goods and services".

Obama had predicted that the pact would increase US exports to South Korea, the world's 11th-biggest economy.

America's ballooning trade deficit with a number of countries has been met with ire by Trump and he blames it for a loss of domestic manufacturing jobs.

The US government officially began to demand negotiations on amending the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Korea.

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