Trump may pull out of skewed US-South Korea trade pact


President Trump may pull out of KORUS, the free-trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea, as soon as next week. The agreement was signed in 2007 and came into force in 2012.

During the presidential campaign and following his Nov. 8 victory, Mr. Trump pledged to renegotiate, or pull out of, any trade deals which placed the U.S. at a disadvantage. He particularly lambasted the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which he said represented “another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country,” and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he described as “one of the worst economic deals ever made by our country.” NAFTA was signed by Bill Clinton in 1993.

With regard to the U.S.-South Korea accord, the president has previously expressed concern at the doubling of the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea following the implementation of the trade accord five years ago. According to data published by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the trade deficit jumped from $13.2 billion in 2011 to $27.7 billion in 2016, a 110-percent increase over this short period.

Last year, the U.S. exported $42.3 billion in goods to South Korea while it imported $69.9 billions’ worth of products from the East Asian country.

Mr. Trump is also aware that U.S. companies face a lot of barriers when they try to export goods to South Korea. By withdrawing from the accord, the East Asian nation may be forced to import more U.S. goods and may not be able to restrict their entry.

Back in April, the president pointed out that withdrawing from KORUS would be easier than withdrawing from NAFTA.

“With NAFTA, we terminate tomorrow; if we did, it ends in six months. “With the ­Korean deal, we terminate and it’s over,” he said at the time before adding that he would not hesitate to pull out “unless we make a fair deal [because] we’re getting destroyed in Korea.”

Scoop has learned that a number of senior White House officials including National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster were working hard to dissuade the president from going down that route, especially now that North Korea appears to be raising the stakes.

On Saturday, White House officials confirmed that Washington and Seoul were still discussing the trade deal before adding that they had “no announcements at this time.”

The president could be giving notice of his plans to withdraw from the pact as soon as Tuesday following a meeting with his senior advisers.