Pence says Washington will 'reform' FTA with S. Korea

Cheryl Sanders
April 18, 2017

President Trump signed an executive order formally withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal soon after he took office and is now seeking renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. "We have to be honest about where our trade relationship is falling short", said Pence, adding the Trump administration would work with businesses on reforms. "Most concerning is the fact that the United States trade deficit with South Korea has more than doubled since Korus has come into effect".

The vice president said the US will not waver on its decades-long partnership South Korea amid rising tensions with North Korea.

Park Chan-ki, an official at the Trade Ministry, said the U.S. hasn't made any official request to start talks about reforming the U.S. -Korea trade agreement.

Under President Donald Trump, who took office earlier this year, the US government is taking steps to review all its trade agreements.

"We'll pursue trade that is both free and fair", Pence said during remarks at a U.S. business chamber gathering in Seoul. "And our businesses continue to face too many barriers to entry, which tilts the playing field against American workers and Americans growth", he said.

Trump has ordered a wide-ranging review of America's deficits with top trading partners aimed at determining how much is the result of cheating, unfair practices and currency manipulation. That study, announced in early April, is due to be completed within 90 days.

South Korean government officials sought to play down Pence's comments about overhauling the existing trade agreement between the two countries. After taking office he immediately withdrew from the multi-lateral Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that was to include the U.S., Japan and ten other Pacific Rim countries, that together accounted for 40 percent of the world economy. Last month, Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Joo Hyung-hwan visited Washington and met with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a bid to highlight the pact's mutual benefits. The two agreed to develop the deal "in a mutually beneficial way", according to South Korea.

Vice President Pence on Monday said the not reaping the full benefits of trading with South Korea.

South Korea's surplus with the United States, meanwhile, soared from $15.2 billion to $23.2 billion during the same period, Korea International Trade Association data shows.

The focus of the Trump administration's America First policy internally is on slashing corporate taxes and regulations, Pence stressed in the meeting attended by South Korean pool reporters. The country sent 964,432 vehicles there in 2016, down 9.5 percent from the previous year, according to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association. He notes that that all foreign imports into South Korea have been in decline in recent years, but US imports dropped by only 2.8 percent, while Japanese imports were down 15 percent, Australian imports were down by 20 percent, and imports from the European Union were down nearly 10 percent.

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