Congressional leaders push back on withdrawal from S. Korea trade deal

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A bipartisan group of congressional leaders on Tuesday urged the Trump administration not to withdraw from a U.S.-South Korea trade agreement, emphasizing the importance of the alliance amid escalating tensions with North Korea.

“North Korea’s latest nuclear test underscores yet again the vital importance of the strong alliance between the United States and South Korea. The U.S.-South Korea agreement (KORUS), negotiated under two presidents and approved by Congress, is a central element of that alliance,” the lawmakers wrote in a statement.

{mosads}House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and ranking member Richard Neal (D-Mass.), as well as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — all top members of committees that oversee reciprocal trade agreements — signed the statement.

The lawmakers underscored that South Korea is a “vital” U.S. trading partner, urging for amendments to be made to the current KORUS trade agreement rather than taking a more drastic approach by pulling out entirely.

“Our trade relationship can be enhanced and, because KORUS’s operation has presented frustrations for some important U.S. industries and stakeholders, we must press South Korea to improve its implementation and compliance. To be effective and constructive, however, we must not withdraw from the agreement while we do so,” they continued, adding that they welcome the start of bipartisan discussions.

President Trump told reporters on Saturday that he would discuss the fate of KORUS with his advisers this week, according to reports.

“It’s very much on my mind,” Trump said about the trade deal.

His remarks came a day after speaking with South Korean President Moon Jae-in about a potential arms sale.

Congress ratified the KORUS trade deal in 2011, after renegotiating the initial agreement made in 2006.

During the presidential campaign, Trump reportedly slammed the deal, saying it “doubled our trade deficit with South Korea and destroyed nearly 100,000 American jobs.” 

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