Korea, U.S. to discuss FTA in Seoul next week

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Korea, U.S. to discuss FTA in Seoul next week

Representatives from Korea and the United States will sit down at the negotiating table next week in Seoul to discuss possible amendments to the free trade agreement between the two countries.

“United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer today announced arrangements for the special session meeting of the Joint Committee under the U.S.-Korea [Korus] Free Trade Agreement,” said the office of USTR in a press release. “The special session will be held in Seoul, South Korea, on Aug. 22. Ambassador Lighthizer and Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong will open the meeting via video conference, to be followed by additional senior-level discussions between U.S. and Korean officials in Seoul.”

The exact venue of the meeting in Seoul has yet to be decided as of press time Friday.

The decision to hold a special session comes after Washington requested in early July a meeting to address the trade deficit of the United States against Korea. On July 24, Paik Un-gyu, the new minister of trade, industry and energy, sent a response letter to Lighthizer, agreeing to the request.

Washington said in the statement that the meeting will focus on “possible amendments and modifications to resolve several problems regarding market access in Korea for U.S. exports and, most importantly, to address the significant trade imbalance.”

Seoul said it will focus on highlighting the positive effects the bilateral deal has had on both economies.

“As we have said in our response letter, we will emphasize the fact that the Korus FTA has created mutual benefits in exchange, investment and employment during the past five years since its initiation,” said the Korean Trade Ministry in a statement on Friday. “We plan to discuss the optimal way to objectively examine, research and analyze the effect of the FTA.”

Local analysts predict that the steel and automobile industries will be at the center of the discussion during Tuesday’s meeting.

“The important issue of negotiation will be the regulation on automobile and steel, in which the U.S. trade deficit [against Korea] has worsened [since the FTA went into effect],” said Kim Su-jin, a senior researcher at Woori Financial Research Institute.

The number of automobile exports from Korea has risen by more than 12 percent per year on average since the FTA went into effect in 2012. Since then, the trade surplus for Korea against the United States has nearly doubled. The share of Korean production in U.S. steel imports also went from 4.9 percent in 2011 to 8.0 percent in 2016.

BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]
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