The South Korean government has expressed its firm stance to the United States against the additional opening of the agricultural market in the upcoming negotiations to amend the bilateral free trade pact, a senior ministry official said Wednesday.
"The government will not strike deals that turn the balance of interest against us," Yoo Myung-hee, a director general at the trade ministry, said in a Seoul meeting with people from the agricultural sector. "In previous talks, we've explained the sensitivity of the issue and stressed that it is difficult to further open up the agriculture market, as we've already widely opened the sector."
Seoul and Washington recently began domestic procedures to amend the five-year-old free trade agreement (FTA), known as the KORUS pact, following U.S. President Donald Trump's insistence it has widened the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea.
The farming industry has strongly opposed the negotiations, claiming that they have suffered massive damage due to cheaper U.S. food products over the past five years. Angry farmers staged a sit-in protest to disrupt a public hearing on the KORUS FTA amendment earlier in the month.
The trade ministry official said the government is ready to scrap the deal if it is forced to cross "red lines" in regards to agricultural issues in future negotiations.