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Seoul expects US pressure on auto, steel in FTA talks

South Korea’s Trade Ministry said Monday that it will seek to start talks with the United States on amending the bilateral free trade deal as early as within a month, and take guard against Washington’s anticipated pressure in the auto and steel sectors.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy submitted its Korea-US Free Trade Agreement road map to the National Assembly, wrapping up the domestic procedure that precede the actual renegotiation of the trade deal.

“There is a possibility that the US could call for the abolishment of remaining tariffs on goods and adjustment of duties on major items, seeking to resolve the trade imbalance between the two countries,” the ministry said in its report.

“(The US) is especially focusing on improving its market access in auto parts, by lowering nontariff barriers.”


The gestures at renegotiation came after Seoul consented earlier this year to US President Donald Trump’s demand to review the 5-year-old trade pact, which he saw as causing damages to US industries and workers.

Apparently encouraged by Trump’s protectionist trade gestures, the US auto industry has raised its voice over South Korea’s nontariff trade barriers as well as requirements for local standards and environmental regulations.

“Starting from late this year or early next year, we will have follow-up negotiations on a three- to four-week interval,” the ministry said.

Ministry officials added that the US counterparts will want to add steel in the trade tracing list, upon the claim that cheap Chinese steel has been entering the US market through South Korea.

Skeptical observers anticipated that Washington may exert further market-opening pressure upon Seoul’s agricultural and livestock sectors as a negotiating lever to carry its point in the auto and steel sectors.

“We will renegotiate with the US under the goal of improving the mutual benefits and balance of interests,” the ministry said, vowing to move on a reciprocal approach.

Meanwhile, the US administration has yet to kick off its domestic process, which is to start with a letter notifying the US Congress that a free trade agreement negotiation is to be launched in 90 days.

By Bae Hyun-jung (