US pushing Seoul on trade revision

by BLOOMBERG

SEOULTrump administration officials are set to push South Korea to buy more American cars and agricultural products even as tensions run high on the Korean peninsula.

The two governments held a second round of talks yesterday in Washington as part of US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s request to consider amending the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The petition, formally made in July, allows for a joint committee to hold so-called “special sessions” to discuss the five-year-old pact, which is known as Korus.

The first special session ended in stalemate in August, with the US calling for revisions to the treaty and the South Koreans balking and instead proposing a study on the agreement’s economic impact. The trade friction comes as the military allies try to find ways to increase strategic cooperation in response to an increasingly aggressive North Korea. US President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from Korus if South Korea doesn’t agree to terms that would reduce America’s growing trade deficit with the country, though he hasn’t made any concrete proposals.

The South Korean government will put utmost priority on domestic interests in the talks, according to a statement released on Oct 2 after officials

including Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong met in Seoul to plan for the negotiations. It has repeatedly said that Korus benefits both sides and improves access for industries in both nations.

“The two countries still need to find a way to get onto the same page,” according to Troy Stangarone, senior director of congressional affairs and trade at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington. “Some of this will depend I think on how extensive the US wants these changes to be. If these are simple, technical changes, these can be done simply. But if they’re looking for more extensive types of changes, then that could raise other issues” and could require congressional approval. — Bloomberg