U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Wednesday he looked forward to talks on resolving implementation issues and potential amendments, which was a far cry from the chances of canceling the entire agreement.
That more conciliatory tone was a marked change from a late August report in The Wall Street Journal, just before a long Labor Day holiday weekend in the U.S., that Trump could terminate the deal soon.
Trump had long voiced opposition to the pact.
In an April interview with The Washington Post, he also threatened to terminate the deal, calling the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as Korus, a "horrible deal" that has "destroyed" his country.
The Trump administration's backtracking this week was all the more remarkable because of the timeline, one analyst noted.
"When the Korus came up, right at a holiday weekend, the business community did a remarkable job, in my view, of mobilizing very quickly and effectively to say, 'This is not in our interests, it's not in U.S. interests,'" said Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre.
Indeed, on Sept. 5, the day after Labor Day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce made its opposition to the Trump administration's position clear.
"It's difficult to imagine a move that would bring more self-harm to our economy and national security, with no benefit in return, than withdrawing from Korus. We urge the administration not to make this rash and irresponsible move," President and CEO Thomas Donohue said in a statement.