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U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement Talks Could Lead to Deal’s Termination

Though the deal has been in place just five years, the U.S. and South Korea will meet in Seoul next week to discuss renegotiations, and President Trump has already said he would either go that route or terminate the agreement.

The Trump Administration has called for a review of all U.S. trade agreements and preference programs and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is next in line. Discussions will be held on Tuesday in Seoul where U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Korean trade minister Kim Hyun-chong will open the meeting via video conference and senior-level discussions between U.S. and Korean officials will continue in Seoul.

KORUS, according to President Trump, is another “horrible” trade deal for the United States as he believes it has led to a larger U.S. trade deficit and the loss of American jobs.

Lighthizer had initially requested the meeting with South Korea in a letter sent in July. He wrote at the time, “I believe this session and the follow-on negotiations will provide an opportunity to review progress on the implementation of the Agreement, resolve several problems regarding market access in Korea for U.S. exports, and, most importantly, address our significant trade imbalance.”

[Read more about what’s happening in trade in the other half of Korea: Turns out More Factories in North Korea are Making ‘Made in China’ Apparel]

In 2016, U.S. goods trade with Korea totaled $112.2 billion, according to USTR data, and the goods trade deficit totaled $27.7 billion. Korea is currently the sixth largest goods trading partner to the U.S. Machinery, aircraft and vehicles are the top exports leaving the U.S. for Korea, and Korea supplies the U.S. with vehicles, machinery and pharmaceuticals.

When it comes to textiles, the U.S. took in $904 million in textiles and apparel from Korea last year. For the year to June 2017, U.S. imports from Korea reached $426 million, a 4.26% decline over the same time last year.

In its own statement Friday, the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said it plans to highlight how the KORUS FTA “has generated mutually beneficial outcomes in terms of bilateral trade, investment and employment over the past five years since its entry into force.”

The Korean Ministry also said it intends to work with the U.S. to objectively assess the agreement’s effects since it’s been in place.