S Korea rejects USA call to revise deal

Kim Hyun-jong trade minister of Korea and Robert Lighthizer US Trade Representative are participating in a special session of the Korea-US FTA Joint Committee at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul Korea on August 22

"The US asked for resolution of its trade imbalance, full implementation of the existing FTA [free-trade agreement], and modification and amendment of the current deal", South Korean Minister for Trade Kim Hyun-chong told reporters in Seoul yesterday after speaking with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer via video-conference, followed by talks with US officials in the South Korean capital.

South Korea says it will not discuss renegotiation of free trade agreement with the United States without assessment of trade balance with that country.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said the agreement, called the Korus FTA, is a "horrible" deal.

"We also explained that the US trade deficit is a result of a complex array of factors on micro and macro levels, not a result of the Korea-US FTA", he said.

"Simply put, the Korus created the ideal environment for the U.S. beef industry to thrive in South Korea", said the heads of three leading beef-exporter lobby groups-the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the North American Meat Institute and the U.S. Meat Export Federation-in a July 27 letter to the government. "We made our position clear that investigation, analysis and evaluation of the impact of the Korea-U.S. FTA must be preceded".

And Tami Overby, senior vice president for Asia at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the U.S. trade deficit would have widened even more had it not been for the pact.




The Trump administration wants to renegotiate trade terms regarding cars and steel because the two sectors are where the US has significant deficits, said Rajiv Biswas, IHS Markit's Asia Pacific chief economist. U.S. figures indicate its goods deficit with South Korea was US$27.7 billion (S$37.7 billion) a year ago.

It appears that the automobile and steel industries will be targeted for changes. 'The U.S. runs a trade surplus with South Korea in services such as banking and tourism, estimated at $10.7 billion in 2016'.

While Trump has promised to reduce the total trade deficit, most likely by seeking protections for American automakers, experts argue a renegotiated KORUS won't bring jobs back to America.

Trade representatives from Seoul and Washington began their first round of negotiation talks on Tuesday morning during the joint committee special session on the Korea-US FTA, held at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul.

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.

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