S. Korea toughens stance on free trade deal as U.S. threatens to scrap KORUS FTA

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-11 16:42:05|Editor: liuxin
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SEOUL, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- South Korea took a toughened stance on the free trade accord with the United States Wednesday after the U.S. side threatened to scrap the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA).

Seoul's trade ministry said it also had a playing card to annul the KORUS FTA just as the U.S. side had.

According to a written reply to a lawmaker of the centrist People's Party who serves on the parliamentary committee of trade, industry, energy and small and venture companies, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said it always kept in mind the point that the annulment is not a unilateral negotiating card, but a card both nations have.

The written answer was delivered to the opposition lawmaker ahead of the parliamentary inspection of the ministry scheduled for Friday, according to local media reports.

The ministry said it would not be unilaterally dragged by the U.S. side if Washington wants irrational demand while threatening an annulment.

The tough stance came after the second special session of the Joint Committee under the KORUS FTA was held in Washington last week.

After the special session, the South Korean trade ministry said in a statement that the two sides shared the need for a revised KORUS FTA to strengthen mutual benefits, indicating an actual launch of the amendment negotiations.

During the first special session held in Seoul in August, the two sides reached no agreement.

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

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

In response, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that the bilateral free trade pact had benefitted both countries and his administration had no reason to hold back in talks with Washington over amendment to the deal.

The Seoul ministry said it will continue to talk with the U.S. side given the mutual benefits of the KORUS FTA, noting that even if the two sides enter into the revision negotiations, South Korea will consult with the United States after going through transparent domestic procedures under the principle of balanced interests.

According to local trade negotiation law, South Korea will take domestic processes such as assessment on economic validity, public hearings and report to the National Assembly, the ministry said.

The ministry noted that it will try its best to reduce the range of modification to the KORUS FTA.

The United States claimed that its trade deficit in goods more than doubled since the implementation of the bilateral FTA in 2012, but South Korea said the free trade deal was not a direct cause of the U.S. deficit in goods trade.

According to South Korea, the country posted a deficit in services trade with the U.S. though it had a trade surplus in goods.

When including the weapons import, the bilateral trade was almost balanced, South Korean experts said.

South Korea's services deficit with the U.S. worsened 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 U.S. dollars to 27.7 billion dollars.