White House in U-Turn Over Scrapping FTA with Korea

  • By Cho Yi-jun

    September 08, 2017 10:27

    After months of bluster, the Trump administration told Congress that it has "put on the back burner discussion of terminating a free-trade agreement with South Korea," according to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

    "White House officials told some senior members of Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday that a plan to end the five-year-old bilateral pact... was no longer an immediate priority, after holding internal discussions on the matter late last week," the paper said quoting a source.

    Inside U.S. Trade said the White House assured key lawmakers including House Speaker Paul Ryan "that its threat to begin withdrawing from the [FTA] has -- for now -- been taken off the table."

    Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, still said the previous day, "We have a negotiation where we would like some amendments to the [FTA] agreement." And last Saturday, asked if he would scrap the FTA he had denounced on the stump, President Donald Trump said, "It is very much on my mind."

    At the time, the Wall Street Journal reported Trump would discuss scrapping the pact at the White House on Tuesday. But the issue has dipped out of view since North Korea's nuclear test on Sunday. Defense Secretary James Mattis and other U.S. foreign and defense officials reportedly opposed terminating the pact on grounds that it could hamper the alliance.

    But the controversy has not died down completely. "They reaffirmed that they're considering withdrawing from the South Korean trade agreement," said U.S. Rep. Adam Smith said after meeting with senior administration officials on Wednesday.

    Senior Republicans and U.S. businesses have pleaded with Trump to keep the FTA, which they described as a "win-win" deal for America, but Trump blew a gasket when South Korean trade officials declined to discuss revisions.

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