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US suspends discussion of ending US-South Korea trade deal, official says

A South Korean national flag, center, and U.S. national flags fly at the Imjingak pavilion near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Paju, South Korea, on Saturday, April 29, 2017.
SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The White House has set aside for now consideration of terminating the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump had been discussing with his senior advisers ending the trade deal out of concern that it was tilted against the United States.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was possible the deal could yet be terminated, but that there were no immediate plans to do so.

"It's not dead. It could come back. It might not," the official said.

Trump needs the assistance of South Korea as he tries to resolve a crisis over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs after a sixth nuclear test by Pyongyang this week.

Some Trump advisers had been urging the president to stick with the current trade agreement to avoid straining relations with a key U.S. ally in Asia.

The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (Korus), hammered out by Trump's Democratic predecessor President Barack Obama, has been a frequent target for Trump, who in earlier interviews with Reuters threatened to withdraw from what he called an unequal deal in which Washington runs a goods trade deficit of almost $28 billion with Seoul.

"It is very much on my mind," Trump said in Houston on Saturday when asked if he is talking to advisers and whether he would do something about the pact this week.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest U.S. business lobby, had urged member companies to have senior executives call the White House and other administration officials to tell them not to proceed, and to enlist Republican governors in the effort.

Trump agreed to renegotiate terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but on Aug. 27 renewed his threat to scrap the 23-year-old trade pact, even as U.S., Canadian and
Mexican trade negotiators were preparing for this weekend's second round of talks in Mexico City.