Thursday, 18 October, 2018

United States and South Korea to revise trade pact with currency side deal

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Glenn Montgomery | 29 March, 2018, 02:27

- On September 5, 2017, Senator Fischer wrote a letter a letter to President Donald Trump urging him not to terminate the KORUS FTA.

USA tariffs of 25 percent on imported Korean pickups will remain in place until 2041 rather than phase out to zero over the next three years.

The agreement represents the first renegotiation of an existing trade deal in the Trump administration, part of a central campaign promise Trump made as a candidate.

"This is a huge win", a senior administration official said of the steel quota.

Trump has slammed it as a bad deal that took away American jobs and widened the US trade deficit with South Korea.

Earlier in March, South Korean government officials said plans to disclose details of currency market intervention are "under review".

Some economists have suggested the new deal isn't significantly different from the old one.

Experts point out that the negotiations lasted only a few months, far shorter than trade talks typically take.

The deal removes a major economic irritant as the allies prepare for high-stakes meetings on North Korea.

"Subject to steel, Korea will be subject to hard quote - a hard annual quote", an official said.

Under the pact, which still needs to be finalized, South Korea would allow US automakers to double their vehicle exports to 50,000 a year, while Seoul would win a permanent exemption from the 25 percent tariffs on steel imports President Donald Trump announced March 8.

South Korea will change its pharmaceutical payment program for innovative drugs to make US companies eligible for reimbursements.

But analysts say the increased quota is unlikely to make much difference anytime soon. That includes reducing additional tests and getting rid of labeling requirements that, the administration argues, hinder American automakers' ability to sell in South Korea.

In a background briefing with reporters, senior administration officials said the agreement in principle to the Korea-United States (KORUS) trade agreement will reduce South Korean regulatory and policy barriers that limited U.S auto sales. Capital Economics says no Korean automaker exports pickup trucks to the USA at the moment.

South Korea has agreed to a revised trade deal with the US, making concessions to avoid high American tariffs on steel.

On March 8, vowing to protect the USA steel and aluminum industry in the name of national security, Trump signed proclamations to impose a 25-percent tariff on imported steel and a 10-percent tariff on aluminum. Exports that fall within the quota will be exempt from the 25 percent tariff.

The steel quota will result in a significant 30 percent reduction in South Korean steel shipments to the United States, the official added. Anything above that amount will still be subject to it. The United States is negotiating with Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the European Union, Australia and Argentina.

The White House also said talks were underway to finalise a side agreement prohibiting both countries from competitively devaluing their currencies to gain advantages in trade. It also makes foreign imports more expensive for local consumers.

But the devil is in the detail. A formal agreement on currency would be unprecedented-but it wouldn't have teeth, because it would include no enforcement mechanism.

The deal was hailed by the officials as innovative and visionary and one that may inform future negotiations as they arise.

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