President Donald Trump said on Saturday he will discuss the fate of a five-year-old US-South Korean free trade deal with his advisers next week in a move that could see him pull out of the accord with a key American ally at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, according to Reuters.
Trump made his remarks to reporters while visiting hurricane-hit Houston a day after he spoke with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and struck a deal allowing Seoul access to longer-range missiles as well as a potential arms sale.
The US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), hammered out by Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, has been a frequent target for Trump, who in earlier interviews with Reuters threatened to withdraw from what he called an unequal deal in which Washington runs a goods trade deficit of almost $28 billion with Seoul.
“It is very much on my mind,” Trump said in Houston when asked if he is talking to advisers and will do something about the pact this week.
The US Chamber of Commerce said in an email to members that it and other business groups “have received multiple reports” that the Trump administration is prepared to notify South Korea of its intent to withdraw from KORUS on Tuesday, and possibly sooner.
The largest US business lobby urged member companies to have senior executives call the White House and other administration officials to tell them not to proceed, and to enlist Republican governors in the effort.
“This is an all hands on deck effort,” the group said in a memo seen by Reuters that recalled another emergency campaign in April to persuade Trump not to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Trump agreed to renegotiate NAFTA’s terms but on Aug. 27 renewed his threat to scrap the 23-year-old trade pact, even as US, Canadian and Mexican trade negotiators were preparing for this weekend’s second round of talks in Mexico City.
Trump is also likely to face resistance from within his own administration to any move to quit KORUS. National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and other senior administration officials had opposed a unilateral NAFTA withdrawal.
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