S Korea, U.S. reach no agreement in 1st special session of KORUS FTA

Updated 2017-08-23 10:00:25 Xinhua

South Korea and the United States on Tuesday reached no agreement in the first special session of the Joint Committee under the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA).

South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer opened the session via a video conference earlier in the day, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The trade representatives made speeches to tell each side what they want from each other in the free trade accord, which came into force in 2012.

It was followed by working-level negotiations between trade officials from the two countries, which were conducted at a hotel in central Seoul.

After the 8-hour meeting, the South Korean trade minister told a press conference that his country did not agree to the U.S. offer to rapidly amend the free trade deal.

Kim said the two sides reached no agreement on all issues, including schedules for future sessions, during the first meeting, noting that they only confirmed different views over issues including the reason for the U.S. trade deficit and the need for the modification of the KORUS FTA.

The special session was requested by the United States on July 12 to address what Washington called a significant trade imbalance through possible "amendments" and "modifications."

Before the request, U.S. President Donald Trump described the KORUS FTA as a "horrible deal," vowing to put things right by "renegotiating" the deal.

Marking 100 days in office last week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in told a press conference that the KORUS FTA has benefited both countries and his administration had no reason to hold back in talks with Washington over amendments to the deal.

During the special session, the U.S. side said its trade deficit in goods more than doubled since the implementation of the bilateral FTA in 2012, demanding the amendments and modifications to the pact.

The South Korean side said the free trade deal was not a direct cause of the U.S. deficit in goods trade.

The South Korean trade minister told reporters that his country's negotiators emphasized the balanced trade benefit between the two countries from the KORUS FTA and suggested an objective examination by experts of both sides into the effect of the free trade accord.

He said South Korean negotiators would not hold back in future negotiations to maximize national interests and a balanced benefit.

South Korea has claimed that though it had a trade surplus in goods with the U.S., the country has posted a deficit in services trade with the U.S.. When including the weapons import, the bilateral trade was almost balanced. South Korea's services deficit with the U.S. worsend from 10.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2011 to 14.3 billion dollars in 2016.

During the same period, South Korea's overall trade surplus with the U.S. increased from 13.3 billion dollars to 27.7 billion dollars.

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