Asia Minute: Trade Tensions with South Korea

Jul 14, 2017

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While a lot of the news about the Korean peninsula these days focuses on security, there’s another issue that has surfaced this week: trade. The U.S. wants to talk about the free trade agreement that’s in force with South Korea. And the reaction from Seoul is cautious. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


It was a little more than five years ago that the U.S. and South Korea signed a bilateral free trade agreement.

The U.S. Trade Representative says the trade gap between the countries has widened considerably since then.

USTR says exports to South Korea have fallen while the U.S. trade deficit in goods has more than doubled over the life of the agreement—to nearly 28 billion dollars last year.

A spokesman for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday the free trade agreement may not be the cause of the growing trade imbalance. Adding that the two countries “need to closely analyze and evaluate the effects” of the deal.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Trade Representative sent a letter to South Korea’s Trade Minister saying the U.S. wants to meet to discuss “possible amendments and modifications” to the agreement.

Korean officials pointed out that the formal letter did not use the phrase “renegotiate,” a term President Trump has used when it comes to the trade deal.

The terms of the agreement call for discussions to begin within 30 days after either side requests a meeting, and administration officials expect they will get underway next month in Washington.