South Korea’s negotiations with the U.S. to revise their bilateral free trade agreement could begin next month, which is much earlier than expected.
Both sides feel the need to hasten the process.
The possibility of holding earlier negotiations was raised following Tuesday’s summit talks between the South Korean and U.S. leaders.
After the summit, President Moon Jae-in said the two sides agreed to swiftly proceed with FTA discussions.
The U.S. is believed to be seeking a breakthrough in Korea FTA talks amid lackluster progress in the renegotiation of NAFTA, or the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Korea also wants swift progress rather than dragging on the controversial FTA revision.
Both sides are currently engaged in domestic procedures to formally begin negotiations. Therefore if both sides have the will, pushing up the timetable is logistically possible.
Under Korean law, the government needs to hold a public hearing and draft plans of the trade deal before briefing parliament. All procedures can be concluded this month.
In the U.S., for a complete revision of a trade deal, Congress needs to be notified 90 days prior to the launch of negotiations. The administration must also hold public hearings and disclose its goal 30 days prior to official talks.
However for a partial revision, a simple consultation with Congress is required. The fact that Washington has shown its intent for a speedy process implies that it may well be seeking a partial revision.
South Korea believes the FTA benefits both countries. It seeks to objectively appraise the trade deal’s effects with plans to revise only necessary parts of the agreement.
President Trump initially threatened to scrap the deal, but many in the U.S. believe the Korea FTA is also beneficial to America.
Now that the two presidents have agreed on an expeditious procedure, negotiations are more likely to aim for a partial rather than a full-fledged revision of the trade pact.
A South Korean official said that it's difficult to predict when negotiations will begin but that if related procedures move swiftly, talks could be held next month.