Wednesday, 20 September, 2017

Trump mulling withdrawal from Korea trade deal

Trump weighing termination of South Korea free trade deal Trump prepares to discuss withdrawal from KORUS : WP
Christy Curtis | 04 September, 2017, 08:21

"It's very much on my mind", the president said of the trade deal.

While it is still possible Trump could decide to stay in the agreement in order to renegotiate its terms, the internal preparations for terminating the deal are far along and the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this coming week, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

With many viewing Trump's gesture as an attempt to gain an upper hand in stalled renegotiations, a Seoul official with the Trade Ministry said that South Korea has no change in its policies on the FTA with the United States despite Trump's hints. The news was first reported Friday night by Inside U.S. Trade and then reported earlier Saturday by the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

The Korea Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Sunday said it is preparing for all possibilities and monitoring the situation closely.

Withdrawing from the deal could lead to a large increase on tariffs levied against products the USA imports from South Korea, such as electronics, cell phones, and automobiles.

He pulled the USA out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement during his first week in office and his administration is now in talks to rewrite the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong on August 22, after holding a special session with the United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, said both sides have failed to reach an agreement and that the Korean team did not agree to the USA proposals.

Trump has labeled the agreement, which went into effect in 2012, a bad deal.

Mr Trump's push to revise the deal is part of his broader drive to tackle unfair trading practices and cut the U.S. trade deficit. Mr Trump said last month that Canada and Mexico are being "difficult" and he will probably need to scrap the pact. If true, the move would deal a big blow to the relations between the allies, stoking economic tension at a time of escalated threats from North Korea.

The American business lobby group stressed that pulling out of the pact will only rupture relations between the White House and USA businesses, particularly the agricultural community, citing that exports in aerospace have doubled to $8 billion thanks to the free trade pact while agricultural goods exports to Korea soared thanks to the phasing out of the double-digit tariff. The U.S. had a $17.6 billion trade gap with South Korea a year ago, wider than $7.7 billion in 2012.

South Korea is "thoroughly preparing for all possibilities and will closely monitor" the U.S. developments over the trade agreement, the ministry official said, according to Yonhap.

South Korea, home to Samsung, Hyundai and Kia among other companies with household names, is a major exporter of electronics and automobiles to the United States.

This isn't the first time Sasse has criticized Trump's foreign trade politics. USA beef sales to South Korea rose to $1.1 billion in 2016 from $582 million in 2012, making South Korea the second-largest export market for US, according statistics from industry associations.

Some of Trump's top advisers - including National Economic Council Chairman Gary Cohn - have privately raised red flags about pulling out of the agreement.

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