First feedback from a two-day session on updating the US-Korea free trade agreement suggests there is still more work to be done in negotiating modifications and amendments to the deal – but no date has been set for further talks.
In a statement following the meetings that took place in Seoul this week (31 January and 1 February), US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said discussions focused on specific proposals, including those related to market access and tariffs.
The US again emphasised steps to improve its “large” trade deficit with Korea in industrial goods, including autos and auto parts.
In addition, Lighthizer said the US pressed for the resolution of agreement implementation concerns that “have hindered US goods and services export growth and opportunities in Korea.”
“These negotiations are an example of the Trump Administration’s commitment to making trade deals fair and reciprocal,” he said. “We must build on these negotiations with substantive and expeditious progress that will benefit the American people. In every trade relationship, the United States will stand up for US workers and manufacturers, especially those facing serious injury or harm by unfair trade practices.”
Meanwhile, according to international trade law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, a Korea Times article states the US demanded that the country of origin rules be toughened “to suppress Korea’s automobile exports to the United States” and that Korea ease emissions regulations “to increase exports of US cars.”
In the firm’s trade report, published today (2 February), it claims the Korean trade ministry said it offered “detailed suggestions” on revising the investor-state dispute settlement system and raised concerns about trade remedies, particularly the US decision to impose safeguard duties on imports of solar cells and clothes washers from virtually all trading partners, including Korea, beginning 7 February.
It adds trade minister Kim Hyun-chong said he “expressed strong regret” over this move and “pointed out the unfairness of using adverse facts available” on Korean goods. The safeguard tariffs are the focus of a World Trade Organization dispute settlement case Seoul recently filed against the US.
Both the US and South Korea said they anticipate setting dates in the near future for further meetings in Washington, DC.
The US delegation was led by Michael Beeman, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Japan, Korea and APEC. Korea’s delegation was led by Deputy Minister Myung-hee Yoo of the Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry (MOTIE).