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US, South Korea to hold trade talks next week

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US and South Korean delegates will meet in Washington on Jan 5 for talks on possible amendments to their free trade agreement, officials announced Thursday.

[WASHINGTON] US and South Korean delegates will meet in Washington on Jan 5 for talks on possible amendments to their free trade agreement, officials announced Thursday.

The Trump administration initiated talks to renegotiate the United States-Korea (Korus) free trade agreement in July, arguing the 2012 deal was lopsided because American's bilateral trade deficit had ballooned under it.

It will be the third such session after previous meetings in Seoul in August and Washington in October.

According to the office of Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the US exported less to South Korea in 2016 (US$42.3 billion) than it did before the agreement was signed in 2011 (US$43.5 billion), a decline of 2.7 per cent.

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Over the same period, South Korean imports in the United States rose by nearly US$20 billion, meaning the US trade deficit in goods rose from US$13.2 billion to US$27.6 billion.

The US deficit in the autos sector alone now stands at US$24 billion, an increase of 77 per cent since 2011, a statement from Mr Lighthizer's office added.

Since assuming office a year ago, US President Donald Trump has railed against free trade deals, describing them as bad for US jobs.

One of his first moves was to pull US support for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, an American-led initiative with 11 Asia-Pacific countries that deliberately excluded Washington's big regional rival China.

His administration is currently involved in bumpy negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) with neighboring Canada and Mexico, which Mr Trump has repeatedly threatened to scrap altogether.

AFP