WASHINGTON– The former chief U.S. negotiator for the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement has welcomed Seoul’s proposal for an objective examination of the deal’s impact.

In a contribution to The Hill, Wendy Cutler, former acting deputy to the U.S. trade representative, lamented the apparent impasse in U.S.-initiated bilateral talks about possible amendments to the pact.

“It appears both sides mostly talked past each other and left without any specific plans for re-engagement,” she said, referring to the first meeting in Seoul on Aug. 22. “If not handled carefully, the latest impasse could lead to renewed trade tension between the U.S. and Korea. It also takes place at a time, after exceedingly threatening North Korean missile tests, when the bilateral alliance could not be more important.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has called the KORUS FTA a “horrible” deal and blamed it for his country’s large trade deficit with South Korea.

Cutler proposed five steps to get the bilateral trade relationship “back on track.”

“First, the U.S. should welcome Korea’s suggestion to undertake an objective analysis of the impact of KORUS on both economies, including an examination to the causes of the overall U.S. bilateral trade deficit,” she said.

An analysis would show that the deal, which took effect in 2012, has benefited both sides, and that the deficit can be blamed on macroeconomic factors, an argument made by Seoul, she added.

Cutler also proposed the two sides focus on areas where the agreement has fallen short of expectations, and then consider possible amendments in areas that cannot be addressed through implementation, “carefully and respectfully.”

The two sides should also consider updating the agreement in sectors such as digital trade and state-owned enterprises, while the U.S. should keep South Korea abreast of progress in the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations, which could directly impact any future amendment to the KORUS FTA.

“KORUS has been the economic cornerstone of a strong U.S.-Korea alliance. While not perfect, it has delivered economic benefits to both sides and has made us closer partners,” Cutler said. “It’s in our mutual interest to find a path forward that works for both sides, particularly in light of the recent developments on the Korean Peninsula.”




Source: Yonhap News Agency