South Korea and the U.S. have begun talks to discuss possible revisions to their bilateral free trade agreement. The special session is being held upon the Trump administration’s request to address U.S. concerns about a trade deficit with South Korea.
Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer held a meeting via a video conference Tuesday morning.
In a later briefing, Kim said that Seoul didn't agree to unilateral calls by the U.S. to revise the FTA and made it clear that research, analysis and an assessment of the impact of the trade deal must take place.
During the meeting, the U.S. called for a revision to the agreement, citing that its trade deficit has doubled since the FTA came into effect, especially in the auto, steel and information technology sectors.
The minister said that Seoul explained the FTA is not the cause of the trade deficit, presenting facts and figures to back up his claim.
The U.S. reportedly asked Seoul to faithfully implement FTA regulations regarding automobiles and origin verification.
Minister Kim said the two sides failed to reach any agreement including on the timetable of future negotiations.
The latest meeting simply affirmed the stance and differences of the two sides. But it’s still significant as the two nations’ trade chiefs directly exchanged views for the first time.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer did not visit South Korea but held a video conference with Minister Kim.
The video conference was followed by a face-to-face meeting of about 30 senior officials from the two sides.
The first special joint committee meeting served to sound out the other side. The battle of wits begins now. Kim and Lighthizer both took office this year but as both are seasoned negotiators, pundits say it’s hard to predict the direction of future discussions.
Kim was one of the key officials who put together the KORUS FTA.
Also, growing calls within the U.S. opposing a revision of the Korea trade deal are also likely to lend weight to Seoul’s stance.