SEOUL, July 14 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea is preparing for upcoming talks to amend a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, officials said Friday.
On Wednesday (U.S. time), the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) requested that its South Korean counterpart hold a special joint committee to discuss the amendment and modification of the Korea-U.S. FTA, which took effect in 2012.
Moreover, U.S. President Donald Trump said on the same day that the two countries have already started renegotiating the FTA, which he called a “horrible deal.”
Upon the USTR’s request, a special session of the joint committee, which usually takes place once every year, should be held within 30 days, if there is no other mutual consent.
But, an official from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said it may take more than 30 days to hold the proposed meeting as the South Korean trade ministry is subject to government reorganization.
Under the government restructuring plan outlined by the new Moon Jae-in government, a semi-independent trade bureau will be set up, with the chief to be called the trade minister. But the bill on the government reorganization has been gathering dust in the National Assembly due to a prolonged political standoff.
South Korea said it plans to explain the domestic political situation to the U.S. and discuss a detailed schedule and agenda further.
“Instead, the ministry will strengthen the operation of three task force teams including one for trade pact analysis in a way to increase our preparation for the future negotiations,” said the official. “We will map out detailed plans and scenarios that we may face at the negotiation table with the U.S.”
The Korea-U.S. FTA has widely been considered a symbol of the economic alliance between the two countries, but Trump blamed it for being a key cause of job losses and other economic problems in the world’s largest economy.
USTR Robert Lighthizer has said the U.S. goods deficit has doubled since the Korea-U.S. FTA entered into force.
Separately, the Trump administration has already started the process to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been under fire for undermining the competitiveness of U.S. companies and workers.