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US is said to plan talks soon to revamp South Korea trade deal

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South Korea's President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump shake hands while making statements in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 30, 2017 in Washington, DC.

[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump's administration has notified U.S. lawmakers that it plans to start renegotiating soon America's free-trade agreement with South Korea, according to people familiar with the matter.

Officials at the US Trade Representative's office contacted lawmakers Tuesday to indicate the administration plans to approach South Korea soon to start the talks, said two people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions aren't public.

A USTR spokeswoman didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

Mr Trump has called the agreement a "horrible" deal that he planned to either revamp or terminate.

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Former President Barack Obama renegotiated the accord in 2012 in part to gain better terms for US automakers. But after a meeting at the White House this month, Mr Trump told his counterpart Moon Jae In that South Korea should give US automakers a "fair shake" to sell more cars there.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will likely seek changes to the deal that don't require the administration to seek so-called fast-track authority from Congress, said one of the people. Under that process, the administration consults with lawmakers on its renegotiation objectives, allowing it to seek a simple yes-or-no vote from Congress.

The administration kicked off the process in May on the North American Free Trade Agreement, starting a three-month countdown to the start of renegotiations on the deal with Canada and Mexico. However, the government doesn't have to seek fast-track authority if it doesn't plan to alter trade barriers in a way that requires changes to US law.

Talks on trade with South Korea would come at a time of heightened security tensions on the Korean peninsula, after North Korea tested a missile that some experts believe could reach the US mainland with nuclear weapons.

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