South Korea and the U.S. are expected to launch negotiations to amend their free trade agreement as early as the beginning of next year.
Five years after the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement went into effect, the two sides have essentially agreed to launch negotiations to amend the deal.
Seoul's chief trade representative reached the decision at a special session of a joint committee on the FTA issue with the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington on Wednesday.
As a result, the two nations are expected to begin domestic procedures to launch the negotiation.
South Korea’s trade representative will begin the process by reporting the results of the special session to the National Assembly next week.
If both sides move quickly, negotiations for the amendment could begin as soon as the beginning of next year.
Wednesday’s special session, led by Minister for Trade Kim Hyun-chong and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, was held one and a half months after the first session in Seoul in August.
In a press release Thursday, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said the U.S. raised various issues relating to the implementation of the FTA and a need to amend parts of the deal. It said the Korean side also raised issues of concern and
that the two parties shared the need to amend the deal to strengthen mutual reciprocity.
The ministry added it will assess the economic feasibility of the deal, hold a public hearing and report to parliament as required by laws on implementing the FTA.
In a statement, Lighthizer said he looks forward to “intensified engagement with Korea in an expeditious manner to resolve outstanding implementation issues as well as to engage soon on amendments that will lead to fair, reciprocal trade.”
Asked by reporters if a renegotiation has been formally launched, Kim said the two sides are not at that stage yet, adding that Seoul and Washington must first seek domestic procedures.
The two sides are expected to lock horns over automobiles and auto parts in particular. The U.S. is also interested in addressing steel and agriculture.
U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to scrap the trade deal if it can't be adjusted into terms he sees as more favorable.
South Korea has emphasized mutual benefits of the FTA resulting from expanded bilateral trade volume.
Seoul had proposed to first analyze the economic effects of the trade deal.
Seoul's stance that the KORUS FTA also benefits the U.S. economy receives considerable backing from U.S. political and industrial circles.
During the renegotiation, the U.S. is expected to call for imposing tariffs on Korea's automobile exports to America while lifting tariffs from U.S. agricultural shipments to Korea.