The Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy announced that the first round of negotiation for KORUS FTA revision took place for hours on January 5 at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Director-General Yoo Myung-hee led the South Korean side in the negotiation with the U.S. side headed by Michael Beeman, Assistant USTR for Japan, Korea, and APEC.
Their opinions clashed in the first round. The U.S. demanded elimination of non-tariff barriers with regard to automobiles and stricter rules of origin when it comes to automobiles and steel while mentioning additional opening of the agricultural market.
South Korea claimed that its trade surplus with the U.S. decreased last year and the U.S. is enjoying a huge surplus in the service sector, adding that the agricultural sector is not going to be a matter of negotiation under any circumstances. South Korea also demanded improvement on investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and easier U.S. beef import restrictions.
The next round of negotiation takes place in three or four weeks.
In the meantime, the ministry said that the U.S. government is likely to release a report this month on how steel imports are related to its national security. In April last year, U.S. President Donald Trump told the Department of Commerce to submit the report after looking into the potential impact of steel imports from South Korea, Canada, Mexico, etc.
It is said that the report will include import duties on and quotas applied to steel imports from South Korea. “The result of the investigation based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 is about to be released as in the case of the probes on solar panels and washing machines,” the ministry remarked, continuing, “We will respond actively by means of lawsuits at the WTO and so on.”