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Moon says FTA can be improved for both

President added it’s key to show deal has raised U.S. employment
June 30,2017
WASHINGTON - Seoul is willing to talk about improving the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday, as Washington wants to address the trade issue at the upcoming summit at the White House.

“Each country benefits in different industries through FTAs and they also suffer losses in some areas,” Moon said during his meeting with reporters on the airplane to Washington. “And yet, a discussion is necessary if there is a need for the Korea-U.S. FTA to improve for a more mutually beneficial relationship. We can always talk about this issue.”

Moon arrived here Wednesday for his first presidential trip. He will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday and Friday to discuss pending issues concerning the two countries’ alliance as well as North Korea’s nuclear arms program.

A White House official said Wednesday that Trump wants to have a candid talk about the issue with Moon at the summit, the JoongAng Ilbo reported.

“His view is that there are aspects of the trade relationship that aren’t in balance,” the official said. “He will be, I think, forthright in talking about things like U.S. automobiles and the fact that there are still some barriers to U.S. auto sales in Korea - certainly, the enormous amount of steel that sometimes ends up being surplus Chinese steel that comes to the United States via South Korea.”

According to the report, the official said there is still a “large gap” in the two countries’ trade balance. “It’s caught the president’s eye,” he said, “and I think that he’ll talk about that.”

Negotiators of Seoul and Washington struck a deal to forge the bilateral free trade pact between Korea and the United States in 2007 during the administration of Roh Moo-hyun, the late president considered to be Moon’s political mentor and lifetime partner. Earlier this year, Trump threatened to terminate the agreement, calling it a “horrible deal.”

“I think the trade is well balanced between the two countries through the deal struck during the Roh administration, and a subsequent revision based on a renegotiation,” Moon said. “The trade volume of the world went down by 12 percent, but in contrast, trade between Korea and the United States went up 12 percent.”

Moon also challenged Trump’s complaint that the U.S. goods trade deficit is too high.

“The U.S. trade deficit with Korea is not as high as its trade deficits with other countries, such as China and Japan,” he said. “We are seeing surplus in goods trade, but we are seeing a deficit in services. When they are combined together, the [U.S.] deficit is largely lowered.”

Moon also said he believes he can persuade Trump about the situation.

“Korean companies’ investments in the United States have increased greatly and these investments helped increase employment in America,” Moon said. “If I can make him understand this, he will be able to understand the situation more properly.”

Later on Wednesday, Moon attended a Korea-U.S. business summit dinner and delivered a speech in which he proposed that the Korea-U.S. military alliance be expanded to become a strategic economic partnership.

“I hope economic cooperation between Korea and the United States can go beyond merely expanding bilateral trade and investment, as in the past, and develop into a ‘strategic economic partnership,’” Moon said.

He also told business leaders of the two countries to pay special attention to the new opportunity that peace on the Korean Peninsula will bring.

“The division is painful for the economic sector,” Moon said. “The security risk is a challenge that we need to overcome, but if we can succeed, we will be able to create a new opportunity.”

Moon promised that his administration will do its best to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue based on the Korea-U.S. alliance. “During the process of realizing my government’s plan,” he said, “you will be able to invest in Korea without concern, and may even gain the opportunity to invest in North Korea.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]