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S. Korea, US to begin talks on possible FTA amendment next week

WASHINGTON -- South Korea and the United States will begin talks next week to discuss possible revisions to their bilateral free trade agreement, the US trade representative said Thursday.

The special session will be held in Seoul on Tuesday upon Washington's request and address US concerns about a trade deficit with the Asian ally. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer made the request last month.

"Ambassador Lighthizer and Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong will open the meeting via a video conference, to be followed by additional senior-level discussions between US and Korean officials in Seoul," the USTR's office said in a statement.

The meeting will aim to "consider matters affecting the operation of the KORUS Agreement, including possible amendments and modifications to resolve several problems regarding market access in Korea for US exports and, most importantly, to address the significant trade imbalance," it added.


In Seoul, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said it will emphasize the role of the bilateral free trade deal in increasing trade between the two allies and developing both economies in terms of employment and investment over the past four years.

"At the scheduled talks, we will discuss the best way to work together to objectively examine, analyze and assess the effects of the KORUS FTA since its entry into force," the trade ministry said in a release.

The bilateral trade volume increased to $109.6 billion in 2016 from $100.8 billion in 2011, a year before the pact took effect in March 2012, with South Korea's trade surplus reaching some $27 billion in 2016, up from $11.6 billion tallied five years earlier.

US President Donald Trump has slammed the trade pact as a "job killing" and "horrible" deal.

But South Korean officials say the deal has benefited both sides since it went into force in 2012. Experts also say that even though the US has a deficit in goods trade, the country has enjoyed surpluses in the services trade under the deal, and US deficits in the goods trade would have been larger had it not been for the pact.

The agreement has widely been considered a symbol of the economic alliance between the two countries. (Yonhap)
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