South Korea and the United States have started the third round of talks to amend their free trade agreement (FTA) Thursday (local time) at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in Washington D.C. as the United States took a series of protectionist actions. The talk came after President Trump’s comment implying the possible withdrawal of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea as leverage in negotiating terms for a new trade pact that will address Washington’s widening deficit with Seoul. The White House, however, defended his comment on the same day, saying that the president “did not suggest removing American forces from South Korea.”
The two sides, led on the South Korean side by Yoo Myung-hee, 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, started talks at 10 a.m. Thursday, which continued for around seven and a half hours.
A key issue discussed at the negotiating table was a new U.S.-imposed 25 percent tariff on steel imports that will go into effect from next Friday. South Korea pushed for an exemption from the latest sanctions on steel imports, saying that it is unfair to levy a hefty tariff on steel products shortly after the imposition of safeguards on imported washers and solar panels.
Meanwhile, the United States demanded that South Korea abolish non-tariff barriers to U.S. automobiles and use more U.S.-made auto parts in manufacturing cars exported to Washington. The two sides met again on Friday morning for the second day of the third round of talks.
The negotiation is expected to experience some difficulty as the Trump administration is putting pressure on South Korea, even mentioning the U.S. forces stationed in Korea. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that President Trump said in a fundraising speech to donors he could threaten to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea if he cannot get a better trade deal.
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