SEOUL– South Korea is looking into various possibilities with regard to the free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, Seoul’s trade minister said Tuesday in response to rising pressure from Washington to amend, or even scrap the five-year-old deal.
Paik Un-gyu, Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy, made the remark days after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would meet with his advisers this week to weigh up a possible withdrawal from the open trade pact with Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
“We have to consider various possibilities regarding the FTA with the U.S.,” Paik told reporters after meeting with representatives of local exporters. “Although we cannot show all of our cards while talks are under way, we will calmly and fairly respond to (our U.S. counterparts).”
On Monday, Paik said the government is studying potential challenges that could arise from an exit from the two-way trade pact often referred to as the KORUS FTA, but he didn’t go into details, citing the sensitive nature of the issue.
Trump’s latest move comes as negotiators from the two countries met last month at Washington’s request but failed to agree on possible amendments.
Trump has called the trade agreement “a horrible deal” that has resulted in a large U.S. trade deficit with South Korea. But Seoul insists the agreement that went into effect in March 2012 has benefited both sides and has called for a close analysis of its impact on the two economies.
“We have to research, analyze and evaluate the benefits of the FTA before the two parties renegotiate the trade terms,” Paik said.
In light of the rising protectionism around the globe, the policymaker vowed to expand support for local firms that face toughening trade barriers.
“We will sternly respond to anti-dumping actions that do not comply with the international regulations, not excluding appealing to the World Trade Organization,” the minister added.
A total of 30 countries have taken measures to restrict imports of South Korean-made products this year, largely steel and metal goods, or have engaged in anti-dumping and safeguard investigations against local companies, according to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).
India, the U.S. and China were the three major countries which have strengthened protectionist measures by slapping heavy anti-dumping and countervailing duties on their trading partners, KITA said.
Source: Yonhap News Agency