Revamped US-South Korea trade deal tackles pharma, currency issues

Revamped US-South Korea trade deal tackles pharma, currency issues
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The U.S. renegotiation of its free trade agreement with South Korea will include provisions to boost American pharmaceuticals as well as a pending side agreement on currency, officials said Tuesday.

The White House confirmed it had renegotiated elements of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, known as KORUS, a day after Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong announced the move.

Seoul agreed to include American pharmaceutical manufacturers in its national health program's premium reimbursement plan. While the plan had limited additional funds for innovative drugs to Korean companies, it will include higher payments for innovative American-made drugs as well starting this year.

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The negotiation also included work on a side deal on currency, which the Treasury Department is negotiating with its South Korean counterpart. The details of that agreement are not yet public, but it will not include an external arbitration mechanism, officials said.

The White House confirmed that, as part of the deal, South Korea will double its annual quota for imported cars that meet American environmental and safety standards, but not necessarily Korean standards, from 25,000 per manufacturer to 50,000.

U.S. auto manufacturers, however, have not been able to hit the current quota.

On the environmental front, Seoul agreed to take American regulation into account when setting its own fuel economy standards.

In exchange, the U.S. agreed to indefinitely exempt South Korea from recently imposed 25 percent steel tariffs, and extend expiring tariffs on Korean pickup trucks from 2021 to 2041.

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.