South Korea's trade minister said Friday that he will consider all possibilities when renegotiating the terms of the free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, so as to protect the country's interests and not give in to unilateral demands.
Last week, the two nations agreed to begin the long-anticipated process of amending the FTA at Washington's request. U.S. President Donald Trump has blamed the five-year-old deal for America's growing deficit in goods trade with South Korea. But Seoul has argued the deficit would be larger without the deal and called for a joint review of its impact on the two economies.
"We entered into negotiations (with the U.S.)... taking all possibilities into consideration, including the case of negotiations falling apart," Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong said during a parliamentary audit.
"At the negotiating table, I deal with security and trade separately. We need to enter into trade negotiations with a business-like mind to maximize national interests."
During his meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and senior policymakers in Washington last week, Kim said he explained the mutual benefits of the deal, and they agreed that the FTA should be maintained at a time when a robust alliance is needed to deal with rising threats from North Korea.
"I've already explained in the second talks that the U.S. trade deficit was attributable to its macro and micro economic policies, not just because of the KORUS FTA," Kim said. "They said the KORUS FTA should be maintained at this point, whether that's for economic reasons or security reasons."
The trade ministry said working-level consultations have been under way between the two nations to coordinate the list of terms, which will be discussed when Trump visits South Korea next month as part of his Asia trip. His summit with President Moon Jae-in is expected to focus on North Korea and trade issues.
The ministry said it would soon review the domestic procedures needed for a revision, such as carrying out an economic feasibility study, holding public hearings and submitting reports to parliament.