Korea considers no change in United States free trade policy

Cheryl Sanders
September 4, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump admitted that his administration was considering nullifying the five-year bilateral free trade agreement with Korea.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the administration could warn Seoul this week that it would withdraw from the U.S. -Korea Free Trade Agreement, or KORUS, over concerns that South Korea was unwilling to make significant changes to the accord.

"It's very much on my mind", the president said of the trade deal, according to a press pool report, adding that he is discussing the matter with his advisers.

Last month, South Korea and the USA held their first talks to amend the trade deal but failed to reach an agreement.

Still, U.S. business groups that lobbied heavily for the pact under the Obama administration have taken seriously the potential Korus break, which was first reported by news publication Inside U.S. Trade, and launched a furious weekend effort to quell the prospect.

Terminating a symbolic free trade pact with South Korea, however, would not be that easy as it could send the wrong message to North Korea about the alliance between South Korea and the United States at a time when North Korea has pushed brinkmanship over nuclear and missile programs to the limit.

Pulling out of KORUS would mark the latest step taken by Trump to abandon the type of worldwide trade agreement that had exemplified world economics for decades. National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and other senior administration officials had opposed a unilateral NAFTA withdrawal. It's the latest infighting over trade among the president's influential advisers.

Officials such as National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn oppose Trump's plan, according to anonymous sources within the White House, saying it would hurt USA economic growth and cut strategic ties with an important ally in the region. "But we need you to engage now and start contacting your representatives, senators, governors and whoever else you can think of to warn President Trump that this would be a bad move for the USA beef industry and the agriculture community".

"Unfortunately, too many American workers have not benefited from the agreement", Lighthizer said. "There's no change", said an official from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. The plan also upsets the business community.

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