On January 5, 2018, the United States and the Republic of Korea will meet in Washington, D.C. to discuss amendments and modifications to the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). Michael Beeman, the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Japan, Korea, and APEC, will lead the United States delegation. The South Korean delegation will be led by Myung-hee Yoo, Director General from the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
These formal negotiations follow two special sessions of the KORUS Joint Committee, held on August 22, 2017 and October 4, 2017. United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer initiated these discussions at the direction of President Trump in July 2017. In the letter to the Republic of Korea formally calling for a special Joint Committee meeting, Ambassador Lighthizer emphasized the United States’ significant trade deficit with Korea, which has increased since the KORUS FTA’s March 2012 implementation. According to USTR, the U.S. trade deficit in goods with Korea more than doubled from 2011 to 2016, rising from $13.2 billion to $27.6 billion. USTR has also raised market access concerns, emphasizing that burdensome Korean government regulations often exclude U.S. firms or artificially set prices for American intellectual property. The South Korean government has emphasized that it will prioritize expanding national interest during the negotiations. South Korea’s negotiating objectives are expected to cover the agriculture and livestock sectors.