US, South Korea sign updated free trade pact

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. and South Korea sealed an updated free trade pact Monday on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in signed the deal, which is an update to a 2012 trade pact.

"It's a very big deal. This is a great day for the United States and a great day for South Korea," Trump said at a bilateral signing ceremony, later calling the new terms "fair and reciprocal".

Trump said the deal will reduce the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea, which stood at $9.8 billion in 2017, and increase U.S. auto exports to the South.

Among its revisions, the updated trade agreement doubles the number of automobiles a U.S. car manufacturer can ship to South Korea using U.S. safety standards from 25,000 to 50,000 per manufacturer each year and includes an expansion of "eco-credits" for U.S. automakers to meet the South's emissions standards, according to the White House.

Trump touted his "great" relationship with Moon, saying their joint work extends beyond just trade to include ongoing efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

"A lot of very positive things are happening with Chairman Kim [Jong-un] of North Korea. And you'll be hearing about that over the coming weeks. But I think some really, really important things are happening," Trump said.

Moon said in remarks translated from Korean that the new trade updates are "significant in the sense that it expands the ROK-U.S. alliance to the economic realm as well".

"With the swift conclusion of the negotiations for the revision, uncertainty surrounding our FTA has been eliminated," said Moon. "In addition, I'm hopeful that this will provide us with a platform upon which our bilateral economic ties will be elevated to a higher level in a freer, fairer and more mutually beneficial direction."

In a joint statement issued after their signing ceremony, the leaders pledged "to direct our officials to move forward with additional steps, as required in our respective countries, to bring the updated agreement into force as soon as practicable".

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