President Moon Jae-in speaks during a meeting with South Korean correspondents in Washington on Saturday. [Photo by Cheong Wa Dae]
While building trust and better-than-expected personal rapport to ensure longstanding security alliance in their first summit meeting, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump were out of key in trade issue after the White House host officially declared revisit to a five-year free trade deal without prior consultation during a joint press conference.
Trump in a joint conference at the Rose Garden closing a two-day summit made renegotiation of the bilateral free trade pact of which he addressed as a “horrible deal” formal as to “level the playing field” and make it “equitable” for both parties.
Moon standing before Trump stone-faced made no mention of trade, and their joint statement merely had rhetorical comment that the two would be committed to “foster expanded and balanced trade while creating reciprocal benefits and faire treatment between the two countries.”
The two leaders gave entirely different briefing after the conference. Trump claimed the two nations are “negotiating a trade deal right now.” Moon in separate briefing with correspondents in Washington said Trump’s comments were out of the context of formal talks.
Moon claimed Trump said what he wished to say. He admitted that Trump complained about the U.S. deficit in trade with South Korea, specifically mentioning automobile and steel.
The Korean president said he straightened the facts - that bilateral trade increased 12 percent while global trade decreased 12 percent during the last five years under FTA and that deficit in commodity trade was balanced by U.S. surplus in service trade and Korean investment in the U.S.
If Washington was still unhappy about the trade terms, Seoul has proposed to form a task force to jointly study the effects of the FTA.
By Lee Jin-myung and Ko Jae-man
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