WASHINGTON/SEOUL -- Choo Mi-ae, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party, has expressed concerns over a reported US demand for greater access to South Korea's agricultural market, as Seoul and Washington seek to amend their free trade agreement.
Choo made the remarks during her meeting with White House chief economic director Gary Cohn on Tuesday (Washington time), party spokeswoman Kim Hyun said. She began a six-day trip on the day for talks with top US officials, scholars and lawmakers over security and trade.
"Washington has reportedly called for a wider opening of the Korean market for US agricultural products, and I express my concerns," Choo was quoted as saying.
|Choo Mi-ae (L), the leader of South Korea`s ruling Democratic Party, shakes hands with White House chief economic director Gary Cohn before their talks in Washington on Nov. 14, 2017. (Yonhap)|
"I forecast that this would face opposition from the South Korean parliament, and that it would not be easy to reach a conclusion over the issue," she added.
Seoul is taking domestic procedures ahead of formal negotiations to amend the five-year-old trade deal, which US President Donald Trump called "quite unsuccessful and not very good for the US" last week. Washington blames it for America's growing deficit in goods trade with Korea despite its surplus in the services sector.
During the meeting with Cohn, Choo also put a positive spin on Trump's visit to Seoul last week, during which the Republican president reaffirmed America's security commitment and excoriated North Korea for its nuclear adventurism and brutal dictatorship.
"Thanks to President Trump's two-day visit to Seoul, his image has improved a lot," Choo said. "During his parliamentary speech, attendees there clapped as many as 22 times, and it fostered a friendly mood among Koreans."
Cohn was quoted as saying that South Korea is a major trade partner, and that he would strive to ensure a "balanced" relationship between the two countries.
Choo later met House Speaker Paul Ryan and stressed the need for "patience" in resolving the North's nuclear standoff.
"We have had patience so far in addressing the North Korea problem, and we need to be patient down the road as well," she was quoted as saying.
"While leading the North to come to the dialogue table through pressure and sanctions, we need to take our time and wait until the North experiences difficulties from such pressure," she added.
Ryan was quoted as saying that the sanctions against the North should be prompt and strong, while voicing concerns about the North's advancing capabilities to threaten the continental US with its long-range missiles.
On the FTA issue, Choo voiced hopes for "win-win" negotiations. (Yonhap)