U.S. President Donald Trump stated he is considering withdrawing from a free trade agreement with South Korea, a key international ally, sources reported Saturday.
After opting out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and his threats to drop the North American Free Trade Agreement, Trump has alluded to possibly scrapping the South Korean deal.
“It is very much on my mind,” Trump told reporters in Houston, adding that he plans to speak with advisers later this week, many of which have already stated their disapproval of the move and hope to dissuade him.
The largest U.S. business lobby urged member companies to have senior executives call the White House and other administration officials to tell them not to proceed and to enlist Republican governors in the effort.
A report from the Washington Post stated, “the internal preparations for terminating the deal are far along and the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this coming week.”
Over US$100 billion of trade and services are conducted between the two nations annually and the termination would seriously affect economic sectors in both countries.
The move to cut ties with the South Korean trade deal falls in line with Trump’s campaign promise to bring jobs back to the United States. Along with the others, the president has declared Korus a “horrible” deal, saying he would cut the deal to help trim the U.S. trade deficit with Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
A South Korean trade ministry official said the government has been “thoroughly preparing for all possibilities” and would negotiate with Washington with an open attitude.
South Korean and U.S. officials began talks about possible revisions to the agreement on Aug. 22 but failed to agree on how to move forward.
The South Korean trade agreement was first signed under the George W. Bush administration in 2007, then renegotiated under President Barack Obama in 2010.
“If Trump does, in fact, end the Korus deal, this would be hugely destructive to U.S.-Asia policy at an absolutely critical time,” said a Yale researcher Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior scholar in the law school’s Paul Tsai China Centre, to the Guardian.
“U.S. North Korea policy is in tatters. The administration has not articulated clear goals, cabinet officials regularly issue statements that conflict with the president and the administration has not appointed any of the necessary senior officials to handle the diplomatic morass,” Rapp-Hooper added.
Trump’s comments came amid escalating threats against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which in turn has sought ways of defended itself against what it terms "imperialist aggression."