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The U.S. files an FTA bill, two weeks after Washington summit

The U.S. files an FTA bill, two weeks after Washington summit

Posted July. 14, 2017 07:17,   

Updated July. 14, 2017 07:33


The U.S. has filed an official request for a negotiation to revise the free trade agreement with South Korea five years after the trade pact went into effect under the slogan “Leveling the playing field.” Effectively, the U.S. has filed a bill against South Korea, merely two weeks after the two heads of state had a summit meeting in Washington.


On Wednesday (local time), the U.S. Trade Representative made an official announcement calling for the convening of a special joint committee meeting under the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) to start the process of negotiating to remove barriers and consider needed amendments to the agreement. The USTR proposed to hold the meeting next month in Washington. The trade representatives made clear the principle of America First, saying the step is fully aligned with the intention of President Donald Trump to cut U.S. trade deficit and provide better chances for Americans to succeed in global market.


“Our goods deficit has doubled….it is critical that we achieve real progress to foster a truly fair and level playing field,” said USTR Robert Lighthizer in a letter to South Korean Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan.  


It appears that the Trump administration will launch an omni-directional attack of America First policies against its major trade partners including South Korea. Besieged with a host of scandals such as an alleged connection with Russia, a proposed bill for Trump’s impeachment as well as the stalemated healthcare bill, the Trump administration is poised to make a strong push to cut its trade deficit in a bid to yield a breakthrough out of the predicaments it faces at home. Now, the South Korean government is finding itself without the chief trade negotiator at the helm in dealing with the U.S., which is bent on addressing its trade deficit at any cost.

The seriousness of President Trump’s demand to revise the KORUS deal has been dismissed as “internal” so far, but the atmosphere is shifting among the government officials in South Korea. The Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy is sending director-level officials to the U.S. to have a detailed discussion on the agenda and the time of the committee meeting. A fierce battle is expected between the two parties and the South Korean government is proposing to engage working-level officials first to make a joint investigation of the effect of the free trade deal.  

Yong Park parky@donga.com · Hee-Chang Park ramblas@donga.com