WASHINGTON/SEOUL, January 5 - The United States and South Korea completed the first round of talks on reviewing a bilateral trade deal on Friday with Washington saying there was "much work to do" to reach a new agreement.
Since taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump has pulled the United States out of talks on a 14-nation Asia-Pacific trade pact, started negotiations on a new deal for the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada and initiated a review of the 2012 Korea deal.
Washington has taken a hard line in the NAFTA talks which appear stalled with just two rounds of negotiations left, saying that concessions are the only way for Canada and Mexico to keep the deal.
The Korea trade talks will have to strike a balance between Trump's domestic agenda against the need to contain a nuclear-armed North Korea. A swift agreement would have aided that, officials from both sides told Reuters ahead of the talks on Friday.
The US goods trade deficit with South Korea has doubled since the 2012 signing of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). Almost 90 percent of the 2016 shortfall of $27.6 billion came from the auto sector, an issue the United States is expected to press hard in the Washington talks.
A quick Korea deal could give Trump his first trade victory at a time when NAFTA negotiations are dragging on without agreement and pressure on China to change trade practices has yielded little progress.