President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday called for efforts to upgrade the economic ties between South Korea and the United States to a "strategic partnership" that seeks to jointly develop new global markets for their products and services.
"I hope economic cooperation between South Korea and the United States will further develop from what has remained bilateral trade and investment so far into a strategic economic partnership to jointly develop global markets," Moon said while meeting with business representatives from the two countries in Washington.
The new South Korean leader arrived here earlier Wednesday for a summit with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump later in the week. Wednesday's dinner, dubbed the Business Summit, was jointly hosted by the U.S. and South Korean chambers of commerce.
Moon insisted bilateral trade between the two allies is what partly keeps their respective economies growing.
Over the past five years, overall global trade shrank 12 percent, but bilateral trade between South Korea and the United States surged 12 percent over the cited period, he noted.
"You, the businesspeople, are at the center of economic cooperation between our two countries. I hope my visit here this time, and my meeting with you here tonight will be an important opportunity to enhance the friendship and practical cooperation between the two countries' business circles," he said.
Moon's remarks came two days before he is set to hold a meeting with Trump, at which the U.S. president is widely expected to raise an issue over the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement that went into effect in early 2012.
Speaking to reporters earlier Wednesday, a White House official said South Korea's trade surplus with the U.S. has "caught the president's eye."
The U.S. president once called the Korea-U.S. FTA a "horrible deal."
The South Korean president said the bilateral free trade pact has "mutually" and "equally" benefited both countries.
"FTAs may benefit only certain sectors of certain countries, and we are no exception. The Korea-U.S. FTA benefited our manufacturing and automobile industries but damaged the agricultural sector," Moon said, while speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, en route to Washington. (Yonhap)