South Korea names new trade minister amid US push to amend FTA
SEOUL – South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday appointed a former top envoy who had negotiated a free trade agreement with the United States as his new minister for trade, at a time when Washington is seeking to amend the deal.
Kim Hyun-chong, a US-trained lawyer, was instrumental in framing South Korea’s negotiating position on the deal for then president Roh Moo-hyun, who surprised the country by choosing to initiate talks for the trade agreement. US President Donald Trump has called the free trade agreement (FTA) “a horrible deal”, saying he might even scrap it.
Kim, who also served in the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s legal division, has been an advocate of an open trade policy and free trade deals for South Korea. He will be Moon’s first trade minister after the liberal leader took office in May.
The United States notified South Korea earlier this month that it plans to start negotiating amendments to the deal and called a joint committee meeting under the agreement to kick off the talks next month. South Korea has said it is willing to sit down for talks once a trade minister was appointed.
South Korea has said the meeting does not necessarily mean renegotiation of the deal, stressing the pact was mutually beneficial. It has also said it first needs to be established whether the US trade deficit with South Korea is not the result of other structural causes in the makeup of US industries.
The trade deal was initially negotiated by the Republican administration of President George W. Bush in 2007, but was renegotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama three years later before going into effect in 2012. -Reuters