The U.S. has formally requested talks to revise its free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea.
The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) office said in a statement on Wednesday, that it extended the request to Seoul for a special Joint Committee meeting under the terms of the trade pact.
The USTR sent a letter proposing the convening of a meeting next month in Washington.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in the letter that he believed the negotiations will provide an opportunity to resolve several problems regarding market access in Korea and address the U.S.’s significant trade imbalance. He said the U.S.’s overall deficit with Korea has increased and its goods deficit has doubled since the agreement entered into force.
While the FTA stipulates a committee meeting must be held within 30 days after a request is made from either side, South Korean officials are expected to set a proper date for the meeting through working-level talks with Washington, given that Seoul’s head of FTA negotiations has not been appointed yet.
South Korea says it will call for a joint study to examine whether the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement is the cause of a trade imbalance.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Thursday, in a statement, that it will convey the position that working-level officials of the two nations need to conduct a joint study and analysis on the effects of the FTA as South Korea proposed in a bilateral summit last month.
The ministry said that under the FTA, Seoul is not necessarily required to accept the U.S.’s call for talks, and both sides must agree on the talks before the joint committee decides to start negotiations.
There are also domestic procedures within the U.S. For the administrative branch to revise a trade accord signed with a foreign country, Congress needs to delegate its negotiation power to the government, which then notifies Congress 90 days before the start of negotiations. Considering this process, negotiations on the FTA can begin as early as November.
Also, positive effects of the KORUS FTA are being noted, not only in Korea but also in the U.S. Under the trade pact, Korean imports of American cars grew 37 percent, nearly three times the 12 percent growth in exports of Korean vehicles to the U.S.
However, revisiting the FTA appears inevitable as Washington is determined to do so. But the focus, even within the U.S., is likely to be on partial revisions rather than a full-scale renegotiation.