Amid a growing nuclear threat from North Korea, President Donald Trump
is considering pulling out of a major trade agreement with South Korea
as he tries to fulfill get-tough campaign pledges on international
trade. But he has not yet made a final decision, two senior administration officials said on Saturday.
The president’s top economic advisors remain deeply divided over a possible withdrawal from the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, as negotiators from both countries struggle to rewrite the five-year-old deal.
The debate comes as the United States
and South Korea
are working together to try to combat the threat from the North, which said on Sunday that it had tested a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile. It is a more powerful weapon than the atomic bomb it had tested in the past.
In recent days, a frustrated Trump
has pushed his staff to take bold action against a host of governments, including the one in Seoul, that he has accused of unfair trade practices. But many of his more moderate advisers, including the chairman of the National Economic Council, Gary D Cohn, believe that such a move could prompt a trade war that could hurt the United States
An industry publication, Inside US Trade, first reported late Friday that the administration was considering withdrawing from the treaty as early as next week.
“Discussions are ongoing, but we have no announcements at this time,” a White House
spokeswoman said in an email.
asked during a trip to the Gulf Coast on Saturday whether he was talking with his advisors about the trade deal, said: “I am. It’s very much on my mind.”
The idea of potentially withdrawing seems to have been prompted by the breakdown in negotiations between South Korean officials and the United States
trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, an American official with knowledge of the situation said.
An initial meeting generated little consensus, with South Korean officials offering to consider minor adjustments to the agreement but rejecting a wholesale renegotiation, angering hard-liners in the White House
who have targeted countries like China, Japan, Mexico and South Korea
that have large trade surpluses with the United States.
©2017 The New York Times News Service