As part of his first duties in office, the newly appointed Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Paik Un-gyu sent a letter to his US counterpart agreeing to hold a joint committee on the two countries’ free trade agreement, but with a different timeline, venue and agenda, the ministry said Tuesday.
Making no mention of trade revision deliberations, the Seoul government suggested instead that the committee be used to discuss how to objectively analyze and assess the effects of the KORUS FTA.
On July 13, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, under the direction of US President Donald Trump, formally notified Korea that the US is calling a special joint committee in Washington within the next 30 days to start discussing revisions to the KORUS FTA.
Paik sent a response letter Monday in favor of holding the committee meeting to “engage in constructive discussions.” However, he requested the US allow Korea some latitude, as the new Moon administration is currently in the process of restructuring its government, which would make the US’ proposed one month timeframe difficult.
“I would like to seek your consideration of the fact that Korea is in the process of a government restructuring,” Paik said in his letter. Korea needs to set up a trade bureau and appoint its head who will be responsible for such discussions and negotiations.
“Under these circumstances, I suggest that the special session of the joint committee be convened at an appropriate date in the near future after the restructuring process is finalized,” he added.
The ministry also suggested the FTA meeting should be held in Seoul, not Washington.
The letter went on to state that the Korean government is aware of the US’ trade deficit concerns, saying it is willing to engage in constructive discussions on ways to “foster an expanded and balanced bilateral economic and trade relationship.”
“The Korean government considers that the Free Trade Agreement between Korea and the United States is the fruit of intensive negotiations over two different administrations in each country, which struck a balance of interests, generating mutually beneficial outcomes in terms of bilateral trade, investment and employment over the past five years since its entry into force,” the letter said.
“As the most recent and advanced trade agreement of the United States to take effect in the Asia-Pacific region, we consider that the KORUS FTA has not only produced economic benefits for both countries, but also significantly contributed to strengthening America’s engagement and strategic leadership in the region.”
Following the US trade representative’s committee request earlier this month, the Korean Trade Ministry said it would call on its US counterpart to first review the root causes of the trade imbalance between the two countries, as the Korean government has been firm in its stance that the trade deal remains beneficial to both nations.
President Trump, however, continues to blame the KORUS FTA for the US’ deepening $27.6 billion trade deficit, claiming he would either renegotiate or terminate the deal.
By Julie Jackson (email@example.com