President Trump Looks To Withdraw From Trade Deal With South Korea

Trump says he will discuss South Korea trade deal with senior advisers

U.S. President Donald Trump admitted that his administration was considering nullifying the five-year bilateral free trade agreement with Korea. The administration has been in talks to make adjustments to the trade agreement with South Korea.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association also sent an appeal to its members Saturday to speak out in support of the agreement, which was first negotiated during the George W. Bush administration, with a renegotiated deal under President Barack Obama implemented in 2012.

South Korean and USA officials began talks about possible revisions to the agreement on August 22 but failed to agree on how to move forward. The dialogue comes amid rising tensions with North Korea over Pyongyang's missile tests.

"Now is not the time for Washington to pull out of the KORUS FTA because a rift between the allies is exactly what Pyongyang wants and it's being served to them on a silver platter", Ms Duyeon Kim, a visiting senior fellow at the Seoul-based Korean Peninsula Future Forum, said yesterday.

Mr. Trump told reporters Saturday that he and his advisers are considering withdrawing from KORUS imminently. "But we know that the USA has a strong will to revise the deal".

If the Trump Administration decides to withdraw from deal, the President may look to South Korea to import more US products without restrictions; something he believes will help USA businesses and workers.

South Korea is "thoroughly preparing for all possibilities and will closely monitor" the US developments over the trade agreement, the ministry official said, according to Yonhap.


Trump's push to revise the deal is part of his broader drive to tackle unfair trading practices and cut the trade deficit. Trump used a similar threat to Canada and Mexico to force those nations to begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

Trump was said to have been angered by the trade representatives' meeting last month, which is believed to be the reason why he demanded his advisors consider a withdrawal.

Critics argue pulling out of the deal could strain relations between the countries as they both try and mitigate how to deal with the threat of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

According to the New York Times on Sunday, a member of Trump's foreign policy team said the president's decision to take aim at South Korea was his way of saving face and flexing his political powers.

The United States and South Korea also held a special session of the KORUS Joint Committee on Aug 22 to discuss potential changes to the pact. South Korea has been accused of dumping and subsidizing steel products. The US had a US$17.6 billion (S$23.9 billion) trade gap with South Korea previous year, compared with US$7.7 billion in 2012.

Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse issued a statement saying the President and Nebraska have a basic disagreement about trade. US beef sales to South Korea rose to $1.1 billion in 2016 from $582 million in 2012, making South Korea the second-largest export market for USA, according statistics from industry associations. National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and other senior administration officials had opposed a unilateral NAFTA withdrawal.

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