United States formally asks for changes to FTA

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer

This development came as no surprise to Seoul.

The push to renegotiate the deal, which President Donald Trump has dismissed as "horrible", is part of Trump's effort to fulfill his campaign pledge to either renegotiate or cancel various trade deals negotiated under his predecessors, claiming they have cost the United States jobs and put the nation at a competitive disadvantage.

But some analysts believe the two countries won't make wholesale changes to the agreement.

US to renegotiate Korea trade deal

He has lashed out at countries that have large trade surpluses with the USA and opposed multilateral agreements. Instead, U.S. exports of goods to South Korea fell from 2011 to past year, and the U.S. trade deficit in goods with South Korea widened from $13.2 billion to $27.6 billion over the same period. The Americans "pressed hard", a Blue House source said.

That means that had it not been for the deal, the USA trade deficits would have been larger. The U.S. plans to start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada this summer.

He added that South Korea continues to believe that the deal benefits both countries and that it first needs to be established whether the USA trade deficit with Seoul is due to the deal or is a result of other economic issues. Trump called for applying the maximum pressure on Pyongyang, while Moon stressed the need for dialogue.

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Earlier this month, Donald Trump characterized the talks on the deal as "rough" following the meeting with his South Korean counterpart in Washington.

Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy argued that the FTA is essential for USA companies and that the US action was not totally unpredictable. The automotive sector, including autoparts, accounts for 80% of the trade imbalance, according to Ahn Duk-geun, a professor of worldwide trade law at Seoul National University. Direct investment flows in both directions have also grown substantially under the trade pact.

"There are a lot of very specific problems", Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Moon on June 30, referring to what the Trump administration has called unfair trade practices in the auto and steel industries.

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"The new chief of the trade negotiations office is expected to assume the position of trade minister". Under a reorganization proposed by his government, this responsibility would belong to a new post, but the changes have yet to pass the legislature. In the case of South Korea, the deficit means US businesses and consumers bought more goods and services from South Korea than South Koreans bought from American firms.

According to the Trade Ministry, Korea's trade surplus with the United States was $11.6 billion in 2011, a year before the agreement went into effect in 2012.

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