WASHINGTON — The United States and South Korea have reached agreement on a new trade pact, the White House said on Tuesday.
"We have come to an agreement in principle, and we expect to roll out specific details on that very soon," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a briefing.
Her comments were the Trump administration's first confirmation that the two sides had reached an agreement in trade talks covering revisions to the U.S. South Korean Trade Agreement (KORUS) and a South Korean exemption from new U.S. metals tariffs.
Seoul on Monday announced a deal to limit exports to the U.S. of South Korean steel, while extending high U.S. tariffs on any possible South Korean pickup trucks and increasing U.S. automakers' access to the Korean market.
But details of the agreement have not yet been released by the U.S. Trade Representative's office, which led the negotiations for the United States after President Donald Trump last year called the 6-year-old bilateral pact a "horrible deal" that had doubled the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea since 2012.
The deal is expected to permanently exempt South Korea from Trump's tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, but South Korea will have to reduce its steel exports to the United States by 30 percent from its average over the past three years to about 2.68 million tons.
South Korea was the third largest steel exporter to the United States last year after Canada and Brazil.
The agreement also was expected to double South Korea's import quota for cars meeting U.S. safety standards — not necessarily Korean standards — to 50,000 per manufacturer per year from 25,000 previously. The big challenge now would be getting unimpressed Korean consumers to buy them.
The 25 percent U.S. tariff for pickup trucks, which was due to begin a phase-out starting in 2019, would be extended for another 20 years, according to South Korean officials. This would virtually ensure that any pickup truck contemplated by Korean automakers Hyundai or Kia for the U.S. market would be built in the United States.
Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe and David Lawder