S. Korea rejects US trade revision deal

SEOUL • South Korea rejected a US proposal to revise a five-year-old bilateral trade deal that President Donald Trump has called a “ job killer”.

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

“We told the US that it’s  necessary to figure out the reasons for the trade imbalance through a joint study to research, analyse and assess the effect of the FTA,” Kim said. “From my point of view, there’s no agreement regarding negotiations” to revise the deal.

No date was set for a future meeting on the issue, Kim said.

The agreement could be terminated if either nation said it wanted to do so. That process would take 180 days.

In June, Trump told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that US automakers should have a “fair shake” for better car sales. Kim said last year that the deal was a “slam dunk-shot” for the US.

South Korea describes Korus as a mutually beneficial deal, basing its argument on a surge in bilateral trade volume. But the US sees it as one of the main reasons for the trade imbalance.

Trump’s push to revise the deal is part of his broader drive to reduce his nation’s trade deficits with various nations, such as his pursuit of a full renegotiation of the North American FTA.

The trade issue has emerged just as the US and South Korea need each other’s support to fight together against North Korea’s nuclear threat. Korus also helps the US on a strategic level as China’s economic and political influence grows in the region.

US figures indicate its goods deficit with South Korea was US$27.7 billion (RM118.56 billion) last year, or about US$4.4 billion more than the number Korea came up with. — Bloomberg