WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY • US President Donald Trump's top trade adviser has expressed optimism about reaching an agreement on a revised free trade pact with South Korea, days after Mr Trump suggested scrapping the deal with the key American ally.
Senior US lawmakers and America's biggest business lobby urged the President not to pull out of the five-year-old US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (Korus), at a time of heightened tensions over North Korea's nuclear missile tests.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, speaking in Mexico City on Tuesday after North American Free Trade Agreement talks with Canada and Mexico, said negotiations with Seoul were continuing.
"We have a negotiation we are in," he told reporters when asked whether Korus would be terminated. "My hope is that we will have a successful discussion with the Koreans as things proceed, and that the problems with that agreement from our perspective will be worked out."
Mr Trump said last Saturday that he would discuss the fate of the pact with advisers this week, prompting concern among lawmakers and the business community.
Chairmen and senior Democrats on the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee said on Tuesday that North Korea's nuclear test on Sunday "underscores the vital importance of the strong alliance between the United States and South Korea". The statement by House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady, senior Democrat Richard Neal, Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch and senior Democrat Ron Wyden said talks to improve Seoul's implementation and compliance with the trade deal were welcome, but that the pact was central to the US-South Korean alliance.
We have a negotiation we are in. My hope is that we will have a successful discussion with the Koreans as things proceed, and that the problems with that agreement from our perspective will be worked out.
US TRADE REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT LIGHTHIZER, when asked about the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.
In a separate letter to Mr Trump, Republican Senator Joni Ernst from Iowa, in the US corn belt, said South Korea was key for US beef, corn and pork producers, and "terminating Korus would leave our farmers at a competitive disadvantage".
Mr Tom Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than three million businesses, opposed any "rash and irresponsible" withdrawal in a statement. "We do not believe this move would create a single American job - but it would cost many," he said.