President Trump threatened to terminate the US trade agreement with South Korea in an interview Thursday night, declaring that the five-year-old accord with a key ally was “a horrible deal” that has left America “destroyed.”
Trump sharply criticized the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as Korus, the latest version of which was ratified in 2011.
“It’s a horrible deal. It was a Hillary Clinton disaster, a deal that should’ve never been made,” Trump said, referring to the then-secretary of state who became the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. “It’s a one-way street.”
South Korea is the United States’ sixth-largest goods trade partner, and the US goods trade deficit with Korea was $27.7 billion last year, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.
Next week marks an anniversary for Korus and triggers a review period to potentially renegotiate or ratify a new version of the agreement.
“We’ve told them that we’ll either terminate or negotiate,” Trump said. “We may terminate.”
The president said that the process of termination of Korus is simpler than with the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“With NAFTA, we terminate tomorrow; if we did, it ends in six months,” he said. “With the Korean deal, we terminate and it’s over.”
Trump added: “I will do that unless we make a fair deal. We’re getting destroyed in Korea.”
South Korea’s Trade Ministry said Friday that it has no plans to renegotiate the agreement, the Associated Press reported.
The country’s vice trade minister said South Korea was not notified of any trade renegotiation.
On his trip to Asia last week, Vice President Pence said to an audience of business leaders in Seoul that the United States was looking to “reform” the Korus agreement because US businesses “face too many barriers to entry, which tilts the playing field against American workers and American growth.”
Trump’s threat to South Korea comes after he withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact. The Trump administration additionally is pushing to renegotiate trade relationships with Japan, another important ally.
During a visit last week to Tokyo to open an economic dialogue with the Japanese, Pence stated: “We seek trade that is free. We seek trade that is fair.”