The US business lobby in South Korea floated the idea Wednesday that Asia's fourth-largest economy should create a "Buy American Fund" ahead of crucial summit talks between leaders set for later this month.
President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to hold his first summit with US President Donald Trump in Washington, a meeting that could set the tone of bilateral relations going forward.
The American Chamber of Commerce said if Moon announces a $10 billion "Buy American Fund” meant to purchase US-made goods during his visit, he could make a favorable impression on Trump, a business tycoon-turned-president.
If Moon "suggests that Korea will create a Buy America Fund, President Trump will love it, tweet about it and he will think of President Moon as his friend," said Jeffrey Jones, former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in South Korea.
Jones said Moon should plan in advance what he wants Trump to tweet and he should plan his agenda in advance to ensure that Trump tweets what Moon wants him to tweet.
"If he will do that, he will have a successful meeting with President Trump," Jones said in a news conference at the headquarters of the US business lobby in western Seoul.
Jones made the suggestion after his recent trip to the United States along with other American and and South Korean business leaders for talks with US officials in the annual "doorknock" meetings with policymakers on trade issues facing the two countries.
The free trade deal -- which went into effect in 2012 -- has widely been considered a symbol of the economic alliance between the two countries.
Trump has denounced the free trade pact as a "job-killing" deal and a "disaster," sparking concerns in Seoul that he could push for a renegotiation of the agreement.
The US chief executive has vowed to fix or scrap the free trade deal, even calling it "horrible." He said that the deal has caused a massive trade deficit reaching $28 billion for the US.
Trump withdrew from the US from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation free trade deal, and has stepped up attacks on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Jones said a buy American fund -- if created by South Korea and announced during Moon's trip -- could help alleviate much of the pressure on the free trade deal between South Korea and the US.
James Kim, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea and CEO of GM Korea, said US officials are divided over the free trade deal, noting many of them are quite opposed to the deal, though a lot of them maintain positive views.
"We really believe that KORUS has been very helpful to both countries," Kim told reporters, referring to the free trade deal.
David Ruch, former head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, said Trump's political rhetoric on killing free trade deals with South Korea and other countries is slowly changing as things evolve.
Since 1985, the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea has sent a delegation to Washington and other major cities every year through the doorknock program to meet with senior officials and policymakers to discuss issues affecting American companies doing business in South Korea and the effects of the bilateral free trade deal. (Yonhap)