US renegotiating S. Korea trade deal

US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania welcoming South Korean President Moon Jae In and his wife Kim Jung Sook at the White House on Thursday. Mr Trump said his relationship with Mr Moon is “very, very good”.
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania welcoming South Korean President Moon Jae In and his wife Kim Jung Sook at the White House on Thursday. Mr Trump said his relationship with Mr Moon is “very, very good”. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Trump says deal was ‘rough’ for US, but he and Moon working are towards fair agreement

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump has said he was renegotiating what had been a “rough” trade deal with South Korea when he met for a second day with South Korean President Moon Jae In, focusing on Pyongyang’s nuclear threat and trade.

Mr Moon, who was making his first trip to the United States since becoming president in May, was greeted again by Mr Trump yesterday at the White House, where he attended a dinner hosted by the US President the day before.

Mr Trump has spoken harshly about US trade imbalances and threatened to tear up a five-yearold trade agreement that was reached with South Korea by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Speaking alongside Mr Moon in the Oval Office, Mr Trump said the two had “accomplished a lot” on North Korea and trade on Thursday.

“We are renegotiating a trade deal right now as we speak with South Korea, and, hopefully, it will be an equitable deal, a fair deal for both parties,” he told reporters.

“It’s been a rough deal for the United States, but I think that it will be much different and will be good for both parties.

“We want something that is going to be good for the American worker, and I think that we will be able to do that today.” Mr Trump said he and Mr Moon were in the process of discussing “many options” on North Korea.

Mr Moon has said he wants to form a friendship with Mr Trump and find common ground on North Korea. He said he and the US leader had “very honest discussions” on issues including “the North Korean nuclear issue and other issues of mutual interest”.

“It was a great opportunity for us to further the trust and friendship between me and President Trump,” he said. “It was also an opportunity to reconfirm that the US and Korea are walking together on the same path towards a great alliance.”

Mr Moon did not mention the trade issue.

On Wednesday, he said unfair trade practices would be eradicated and factors limiting competition, such as market entry barriers and price regulations, would be re-evaluated under his administration.

The US goods trade deficit with South Korea has more than doubled since the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement took effect in 2012, increasing from US$13.2 billion (S$18.2 billion) in 2011 to US$27.7 billion last year. It was forecast to boost US exports by US$10 billion a year, but they were US$3 billion lower last year than in 2011.

Mr Moon told Reuters last week that he wanted to discuss a twophase approach on North Korea with Mr Trump, starting with a freeze on the North’s nuclear and missile development and followed by complete dismantlement.

Mr Trump stressed that the relationship with South Korea was “very, very strong” and his personal relationship with Mr Moon “very, very good”.

But another potentially tricky area in the their talks could be the wary stance Mr Moon has taken towards the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-missile system that the US deployed in South Korea in March.

Though parts of the system are in place, Mr Moon suspended further deployment following a furious campaign of economic sanctions and diplomatic protests by Beijing, which viewed Thaad as a national security threat.

Mr Trump wants China – North Korea’s neighbour, ally and main trading partner – to do more to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programme. He sought to woo China after a summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in April, but has grown frustrated that their relationship has not resulted in stronger action.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2017, with the headline 'US renegotiating S. Korea trade deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe