President Donald Trump said Friday his administration was “very close” to finalizing trade talks with South Korea — suggesting that his broader concerns over the free trade agreement between the two countries could also be resolved soon.
“We’re going to have a wonderful deal with a wonderful ally. We’re getting very close to it,” Trump said. “It was a deal that was causing a lot of problems for our country in terms of employment and in terms of lots of other things.”
Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the trade agreement between the U.S. and its Asian ally, made the comment at a press conference to mark his signing of a $1.3 trillion spending bill averting a government shutdown.
Disagreements over the trade pact have undermined the relationship between Seoul and Washington at a time when North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests have threatened to destabilize the region.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who also spoke at the event, said the administration was nearing a “pretty comprehensive resolution“ with South Korea. He said the agreement would encompass Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports as well as “broader trade talks.”
“We hope by some time next week to be able to have a real announcement,“ Ross added.
The White House on Thursday night temporarily exempted South Korea from the new steel and aluminum tariffs, which were imposed under a rarely used trade law that allows the president to take trade action to protect national security interests. That exemption is pending a successful conclusion of talks to amend the 2007 free trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea, which took effect six years ago, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said earlier this week.
Lighthizer initiated a process last July under the U.S.-South Korea trade deal to negotiate changes to the pact to address market access issues and the trade imbalance between the two countries — one of Trump’s chief complaints about the deal.