The Trump administration has requested consultations with South Korea under the two nations' free trade pact to try to resolve US concerns about procedures in competition hearings held by a South Korean trade commission.
"Some of these hearings have denied US parties certain rights, including the opportunity to review and rebut the evidence against them," the Office of the US Trade Representative said in a statement. "Denial of this fundamental right undermines their ability to defend themselves." The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) in December 2016 fined US mobile chipmaker Qualcomm Inc over $900 million for what it called unfair business practices in patent licensing and modem chip sales. The company has contested the ruling.
The United States and South Korea last year renegotiated some aspects of the US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) to address US complaints about the trade deal that was first implemented in 2012. But these changes were largely focused on the automotive sector to protect the US truck market and provide US automakers greater access to the South Korean market.
The USTR official said that South Korea had been working through a process to amend its competition laws before the KORUS negotiations started. Once it became clear late last year that the draft amendments, sent to South Korea's National Assembly in December, did not address US concerns, USTR decided to proceed with the consultations request.