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(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. to hold third round of FTA talks this week

2018/03/14 11:33

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(ATTN: UPDATES with more details on bilateral trades in last four paras; ADDS photo)

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States will hold the third round of talks on amending the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two nations in Washington this week, Seoul's trade ministry said Wednesday.

Yoo Myung-hee, a deputy minister for FTA negotiations at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, will lead the Korean side in the talks with her U.S. counterpart, Assistant Trade Representative Michael Beeman, in Washington D.C. on Thursday (local time).

The meeting comes while South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong is meeting with American policymakers and officials in Washington, D.C. to make a last-ditch effort to get Seoul exempted from proposed steel tariffs by the U.S.

South Korea and the United States hold the second round of negotiations to rewrite terms of the bilateral free trade agreement in Seoul on Jan. 31, 2018. (Yonhap) South Korea and the United States hold the second round of negotiations to rewrite terms of the bilateral free trade agreement in Seoul on Jan. 31, 2018. (Yonhap)

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump signed off on a plan to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel imports, giving temporary exemptions for Canada and Mexico while the U.S. and its neighbors renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

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 exemptions. The duties will go into effect in 15 days.

As Trump uses the tariffs as leverage to draw a better NAFTA deal, South Korea is facing pressure to accept U.S. demands when the two sides sit at the negotiating table to revamp the six-year-old deal.

The two nations made little progress in the past round of talks, which mainly focused on the auto sector. Trump has denounced the pact as a "very bad deal" that cost American jobs and increased trade deficits in the manufacturing sector, though the U.S. has benefited in the areas of agriculture and services.

South Korea's trade ministry earlier said it will closely consult with its U.S. counterpart in the coming weeks to secure an exemption or exclude some products from the high duties.

The U.S. is South Korea's second-largest trading partner after China, with bilateral trade reaching $119.3 billion in 2017, according to government data.

South Korea's trade surplus with the U.S. fell from $25.8 billion in 2015 to $17.8 billion last year on sluggish sales of autos and steel and increased consumption of U.S. beef and natural gas.

Shipments of vehicles and auto parts, which account for 30 percent of South Korea's exports to the U.S., fell for two consecutive years on weak demand and steel products, especially oil drilling pipes and hot-coiled steel plates, were affected by duties levied by Washington.

In contrast, imports of U.S. beef and liquefied natural gas have risen in recent years, taking the largest market share in the Korean market in 2017, the ministry noted.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

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