U.S. official denies pressuring Korea on trade

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U.S. official denies pressuring Korea on trade

The United States is not pressuring Korea on trade relations, a U.S. government official said in Seoul on Thursday.

At a luncheon with reporters hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, the official, who requested anonymity, denied growing allegations that the U.S. government is demanding that Korea fully implement the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Because of growing trade deficits with Korea, local newspapers had reported that Washington was pressuring Seoul to revise some controversial parts of a bilateral FTA that has been in effect since 2012.

A three-day visit to Korea in early June by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was seen as part of that pressure.

A day before Lew’s visit, U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert said at a lecture that Korea is still a difficult place to do business in and urged its government to ease regulatory burdens, particularly for foreign law firms.

At the same time, the United States opposed a second term for Chang Seung-wha, a professor of law at Seoul National University and the first Korean on a World Trade Organization panel that mediates trade disputes.

“The U.S. is not applying pressures over trade, and it is not moving toward protectionism,” the official said. “Korea and the U.S. are strong allies and are collaborating closely for co-prosperity. We are supporting each other.”

But as for the opposition to Chang’s consecutive term, the official said, “It is irrevocable.”

The official also elaborated on Lippert’s lecture this month.

“The lecture highlighted some areas the two countries need to focus their cooperation on,” he said.

“Opening the law firm market will help increase job opportunities for Korean lawyers and expand the law firm service market, while deregulations for the market will help create an environment for dynamic and innovative businesses.”

BY CHO MIN-GEUN [song.suhyun@joongang.co.kr]

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