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14 July 2017, 12:45 | Kara Nash
US to renegotiate Korea trade deal
The United States has told South Korea it wants to renegotiate a free trade agreement signed under the Barack Obama administration. The official also indicated the possibility of the special meeting being postponed.
"At the joint committee, the two countries will talk about issues that they are concerned with".
Under the government restructuring plan outlined by the new Moon Jae-in government, a semi-independent trade bureau will be set up, with the trade chief to be called a minister.
But some analysts believe the two countries won't make wholesale changes to the agreement.
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. The statement also added that the USTR "acted in accord with President's intention of reducing the trade deficit and giving Americans a better chance to succeed in global markets".
The Cheong Wa Dae official acknowledged the session needs to be within 30 days, but "unless the sides agree otherwise". An unnamed official from Korea's trade ministry said that the timing would have to be moderated due to vacancy to the Korean counterpart in trade negotiations.
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In Lighthizer's official notification letter to Minster Joo, he stated, "Korea is an important ally and key trading partner and in order to strengthen our relationship, we need free, fair and balanced trade". From 2011 to 2016, the USA trade deficit with South Korea more than doubled, rising from $13.2 billion to $27.6 billion. "This is quite different from what the previous Administration sold to the American people when it urged approval of this Agreement".
"We will meet and discuss mutual interests and concerns".
He added that South Korea continues to believe that the deal benefits both countries and that it first needs to be established whether the United States trade deficit with Seoul is due to the deal or is a result of other economic issues.
"The Chamber looks forward to working with the administration to identify possible ways to improve implementation and enforcement and to ensure that the agreement delivers on its potential to create jobs and grow our economy", said US Chamber Senior Vice President for Asia Tami Overby.
The Trump administration blames the trade gap on barriers to U.S. exports, particularly within the auto market.
The US International Trade Commission (ITC) also said in a report past year that the Korea deal has been good for American interests, saying the agreement is estimated to have improved bilateral merchandise trade balances by $15.8 billion in 2015. At the same time, imports from South Korea have increased by about 23%.
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