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According to Yonhap News,
(WASHINGTON/SEOUL=Yonhap News) South Korea and the United States were holding a third round of talks Thursday to amend their free trade agreement as Washington took a series of protectionist actions.
The two sides, led by senior trade officials, met at the U.S. Trade Representative's office in Washington to continue negotiating terms for a new trade pact that will address U.S. complaints about a widening deficit and alleged unfair trade in the auto sector.
U.S. President Donald Trump has slammed the 2012 agreement as a bad deal that cost American jobs and hurt the manufacturing sector. South Korea has countered that the agreement benefited American services and agriculture.
The talks were led on the South Korean side by Yoo Myung-hee, a deputy minister for FTA negotiations at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, and on the U.S. side by Assistant Trade Representative Michael Beeman.
During the dialogue, South Korea took issue with the rising import restrictions put in place by Washington, including safeguard duties on Korean washers and solar panels and the proposed steel duties, while the U.S. called for easing non-tariff barriers in the auto sector, according to Seoul officials with knowledge of the meeting. The two sides will continue to talk on Friday to delve further into major issues.
Trump signed off on the 25-percent tariff last week, giving temporary exemptions to only Canada and Mexico while the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is under way.
As Trump uses the tariffs as leverage to draw up a better NAFTA deal, South Korea is also facing pressure to accept U.S. demands in negotiations to revamp the two countries' six-year-old bilateral FTA.
On the sidelines of the negotiation, South Korean trade minister Kim Hyun-chong also met with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in an effort to get Seoul exempted from proposed steel product tariffs.
Seoul has repeatedly asked the Trump administration to exempt it from the steep tariffs, citing close economic and security ties, but it was not included in the initial list of exempted countries. The duties will go into effect late next week.
South Korea-U.S. bilateral trade reached US$119.3 billion last year, according to government data. Seoul's trade surplus fell to $17.8 billion from $25.8 billion in 2015 on sluggish sales of autos and steel and increased consumption of U.S. beef and natural gas.
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Source: Yonhap News (Mar. 16, 2018)