South Korea and the US on Tuesday began talks over a possible revision of their free trade agreement (FTA). The talks were at the request of Washington, which considers that the deal has increased its trade deficit with the Asian country, reports Efe news. Trade representatives from both countries, Kim Hyun-chong and Robert Lighthizer, exchanged their respective positions in a video conference before the start of the technical session in the South Korean capital. “It’s very difficult to predict the first round of negotiations,” Kim said in statements after concluding the video conference. Neither party has so far provided details on the content of the meeting between senior South Korean and US officials. This extraordinary session comes after Lighthizer’s official request a month ago, which urged the discussion of “possible amendments and modifications” that could solve the problems which, in Washington’s eyes, widen its large trade deficit with Seoul.
In the letter sent to South Korea, Lighthizer highlighted that among these problems were the “limited access to the Korean market for US exports” and the “significant trade imbalance” between the two countries. Washington’s proposal is in line with the “America First” policy of US President Donald Trump, who has long urged a modification of the free trade agreement with South Korea.
Although South Korea argued that the FTA has contributed to the economic growth of both countries, Washington said that it ran a trade deficit with Seoul of $27.7 billion in 2016, almost twice as much as the 2012 deficit of $16.6 billion, when the treaty entered into force.