The United States formally notified South Korea of a timetable to launch the process of revisiting the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries that went into force in 2012.
The move comes as the world’s largest economy under President Donald Trump has been seeking to redesign trade deals as to further protect domestic industry and jobs.
In a statement on Wednesday, local time, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer acting on behalf of President Donald Trump, announced that a joint committee under the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement called KORUS would meet in Washington next month, without specifying the date.
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 USTR highlighted the fact that the joint committee “may consider amendments” to the bilateral trade agreement or “make modifications to the commitments… and issue interpretations.”
Such formal notice was sent in a letter by U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer to Korea’s Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Joo Hyung-hwan.
“Since Korus (FTA) went into effect, our trade deficit in goods with Korea has doubled from $13.2 billion to $27.6 billion, while U.S. goods exports have actually gone down,” said Lighthizer. “This is quite different from what the previous Administration sold to the American people when it urged approval of this Agreement.”
Trump in a press conference after his first summit talks with Korean President Moon Jae-in late last month said the two sides would embark on renegotiation and previously called the bilateral FTA a “horrible deal.”
Seoul has not formerly responded to the notification. Moon proposed to install a Korean Trade Representative, but the post remains vacant because the government reorganization bill remains pending in the bickering National Assembly.
If one party requests a special joint committee meeting, the other party in principle needs to respond to the request within 30 days.
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.
The Korean government said that the U.S. has not requested for a “renegotiation” that technically amends and reviews all of the agreement from the beginning but to start discussion to decide whether or not to revisit the deal.
By Ko Jae-man
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