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US Congress asks USTR for consultation in amending FTA with Korea

The US Congress has called on the United States Trade Representative to arrange for a consultation meeting in regards to any amendments to the free trade pact with South Korea, Seoul's trade promotion agency said Tuesday.

Four leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives sent a letter to the US Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, urging the office to "consult closely with Congress before meeting with South Korea and throughout its discussions," the Korea International Trade Association said in a statement.

The four Congress members are Kevin Brady and Richard E. Neal, chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, respectively, and Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance, respectively, it said. 

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

The free trade agreement that went into effect in March 2012 has been praised for fueling two-way trade and investment between the two close economic partners. It, however, drew fire from US President Donald Trump for hurting American economic interests and jobs.

"The US trade agreement with South Korea remains a key cornerstone of US economic and strategic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. Preserving and strengthening the strong economic relationship between the United States and South Korea is particularly important today with rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula," the letter sent by the lawmakers said.

Still, the Congress leaders pointed out there are a host of areas that can be enhanced through talks to amend the five-year-old pact.

A high-level dialogue with Korea will "present an opportunity to address longstanding concerns with respect to implementation of existing commitments on automotive trade, services, customs and other key matters," it said.

Last week, Washington notified Seoul it plans to start negotiating amendments to the trade pact with South Korea and called a meeting to begin the talks in Washington next month. No date has been set. 

The notification came months after Trump said he would either renegotiate that "horrible" deal or terminate the FTA. (Yonhap)
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