March 23, 2018 / 5:51 PM / 3 months ago

U.S., South Korea on verge of trade deal: Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea could announce a trade deal next week that would cover an exemption from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs and other trade issues, President Donald Trump and his commerce secretary said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO - Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stands behind U.S. President Donald Trump, who speaks at the Minority Enterprise Development Week White House awards ceremony, at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump said the agreement “would be a wonderful deal with a wonderful ally. We’re getting very close to it.”

It was not immediately clear whether the deal would encompass a revamp of the 2012 U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as KORUS, which has been under negotiation for several months.

Spokesmen and spokeswomen for the U.S. Trade Representatives Office and the Commerce Department could not be immediately reached for more details on the announcement, which Trump made while speaking at an event to say he would sign a $1.3 trillion U.S. budget deal.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, at Trump’s prompting, said: “We believe we are relatively close to a pretty comprehensive resolution with the South Korean government.”

Ross said if the deal goes through, it would encompass exemptions under the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs that went into effect on Friday, as well as “broader trade issues.”

“And we hope by sometime next week to be able to have a real announcement,” Ross said.

Trump late on Thursday issued a proclamation that South Korea, Argentina, Australia, Brazil and the European Union would get temporary exemptions from steel and aluminum tariffs, along with Canada and Mexico’s earlier exemptions. The exemptions run until May 1 while discussions over their metals exports continue.

South Korea and the United States held a third round of negotiations last week on updating KORUS. Reducing South Korean non-tariff barriers to U.S. automotive exports has been a priority for the Trump administration in the talks.

Reporting by David Lawder; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool

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