“I can hold it until a deal with North Korea is concluded”, said Donald Trump during a Ohio speech. He said that is ready to do so, as it is a “strong card” and wants to be sure that “very good progress” has been achieved with Pyongyang.
The new agreement between Washington and Seoul was reached amid a prepared meeting between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un later in the spring for which the US president will need the support of the South Korean government.
Trump’s statement surprised some White House officials.
“We are trying to understand the true intention behind President Trump’s comments”, said South Korea’s Secretary of Trade and Energy, Baek Woon-kyu. “We think the renegotiation of the free trade agreement is over without any problems”, added he.
Under the new deal, the number of cars that each US producer can sell in South Korea doubles to 50,000 without having to comply with local security standards. Seoul authorities, however, said the discount was not important because no US company sells no more than 10,000 cars per year in the country. The new deal also increased the time of the existing US customs duties on imported pickups until 2041.
South Korea also agrees to limit its steel imports to the US to about 2.7 million tonnes per year in return for a 25% duty relief that the Trump administration announced earlier this month.
Seoul also agrees to eliminate some of the barriers to trade with Washington that are not related to the payment of levies, such as the requirements for conducting certain environmental tests, and to recognize US standards for car parts.