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Sources: U.S. could begin process of withdrawing from KORUS next week

September 1, 2017

After U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and South Korea’s trade minister, Kim Hyung-chong, failed last month to agree on how to move forward on the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, the Trump administration is considering initiating the process of withdrawing from the deal as early as Tuesday, sources told Inside U.S. Trade.

These sources said the White House was “seriously considering” the move, although administration officials told these sources a final decision has not been made.

Sources said two White House meetings with Cabinet secretaries -- one at the beginning of this week and one today -- were held to discuss the potential move.

The administration, a source said, has not shared its plans with many key lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where opposition to withdrawal could be fierce. They told Inside U.S. Trade a withdrawal notice has been drafted and the administration has told some in Congress it will be issued on Tuesday.

These sources say administration officials have made clear that a discussion about a potential withdrawal was alive -- but that the “primary objective” was to get the Koreans back to the table and engage them in a serious negotiation, as one put it.

Sources said for that reason, and because the withdrawal plan has not been cleared with Congress, the threat was not credible -- but could be viewed instead as another of President Trump’s gun-to-the-head negotiating tactics.

The business community has started outreach efforts expressing opposition to the potential move.

The White House announced late on Friday that Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-In had spoken about cooperative efforts to combat North Korea. -- Jenny Leonard (

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