Seoul agrees to FTA amendment discussion

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Seoul agrees to FTA amendment discussion

The Korean government agreed to hold a special session to discuss possible amendments to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement with the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

“Regarding your request to convene a special session of the joint committee under the Korus FTA, Korea agrees to hold the requested Joint committee in accordance with the due procedures set forth in the Agreement,” said Paik Un-gyu, the new minister of trade, industry and energy in a letter sent to the USTR on Tuesday. “The Korean government is cognizant of the United States’ concerns over its trade deficit in goods with Korea and willing to engage in constructive discussions on ways to foster an expanded and balanced bilateral economic and trade relationship.”

Paik’s letter is an official response to the letter sent by the USTR earlier this month.

On July 12, local time, the USTR made a formal request calling for a joint meeting to discuss revisions to the bilateral agreement which U.S. President Donald Trump once called a “horrible” and “job killing” deal.

The U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer wrote in the letter that the committee meeting would attempt to address a “significant trade imbalance” between Korea and the United States. The U.S. trade deficit with Korea has grown over recent years, although it has decreased since Trump took office earlier this year. The trade surplus for Korea during the first half of this year came to $8.16 billion, a 38 percent year-on-year fall.

In the response letter, Paik also proposed the committee analyzes the economic impact the free trade agreement has had on each nation. “The Korean government considers that the Free Trade Agreement between Korea and the United States is the fruit of intensive negotiations… which struck a balance of interests, generating mutually beneficial outcomes in terms of bilateral trade, investment and employment over the past five years since its entry into force,” Paik wrote. “I propose that the joint committee discuss how best to work together to objectively examine, analyze and assess the effects of the Korus FTA.”

The initial proposition by the USTR suggested the committee meet in Washington D.C. Paik, however, said the committee should be convened in Seoul, “as stipulated in the Korus FTA.” Regarding the date of the special session of the committee, Paik asked that the meeting be held at an “appropriate date in the near future” since “Korea is in the process of a government restructuring which is to include the establishment of a Trade Office in my Ministry and the appointment of a new Minister for Trade, who will be co-chair of the joint committee on the Korean side.”

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