Washington: US President Donald Trump plans to withdraw from a free trade agreement with close-ally South Korea, a move that could cause a fresh economic rift between the two countries amid heightened tensions over North Korea.
Trump yesterday confirmed that he was talking with advisers amid reports that he had instructed aides to prepare to withdraw from free trade agreement with South Korea, The Washington Post reported.
“I am. It’s very much on my mind,” Trump said when asked if he was talking to advisers and would do something in the coming week.
A White House spokesperson was quoted by the report as saying that “discussions are ongoing but we have no announcements at this time”.
The move would likely be aimed at benefiting domestic industries, though could force South Korea to respond by slapping tariffs on its goods imported by the US.
Key White House officials are urging Trump not to scrap the deal, including Defence Secretary James Mattis, national security adviser HR McMaster and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, sources were quoted as saying by the report.
The plan is the latest move by Trump to deliver on his campaign promises to tear up trade deals that he has argued put US workers at a disadvantage.
Trump’s reported move comes amidst the US renegotiating the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.
Early this week, Trump said that he would terminate NAFTA indicating that renegotiations are not going well.
The US South Korea Free Trade Agreement was reached in 2007 and went into effect five years later in 2012.
Trump’s plan to withdraw from South Korea trade deal could stoke tensions between the US and South Korea at a time when the two countries are coordinating efforts to confront North Korea over its missile programme.
North Korea triggered a new escalation of tensions in July, when it carried out two successful tests of an Inter- Continental Ballistic Missile which apparently brought much of the US mainland within range.