South Korea will hold its first formal talks with the United States next week under the agreed procedure to revisit and amend the 2012 free trade agreement (FTA) at the request of Washington.
The talks, to be held in Washington on Jan. 5, are expected to be a fierce contest with Washington under President Donald Trump’s “America First” slogan aiming to expand the scope and terms of the trade deal to its favor battle while Korea on the defensive side tries to minimize additional damage to local industry.
According to Korea’s Trade Negotiations Bureau on Thursday, the talks will be led by Yoo Myung-hee, director general for FTA negotiations at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, and Michael Beeman, an assistant U.S. Trade Representative. About 10 officials from each side will attend the meeting.
The negotiations will be held in the form of a “small package” or partial revision where Seoul and Washington address some parts of the chapters and clauses instead of a complete overhaul in the 700--page pact dealing issues from commodities to agriculture, investment, service, and rules of origins.
Last week, the Korean government reported to the National Assembly that it will aim to proportionally respond to the U.S.’s request for changes and defend the country’s sensitive industry sectors such as agricultural and dairy.
The talks will be held in Seoul and Washington in rotation and may come to conclusion in first half of next year at the earliest.
An unnamed government official said that the two governments will seek to hold subsequent talks within three or four weeks and won’t drag them too long. The revisit to the FTA between South Korea and the U.S. is not as expansive as the renegotiation on the North American Free Trade Agreement, he said.
By Seok Min-soo and Lee Eun-joo
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