…As Trump, Rouhani set for UN clash***
US President Donald Trump on Monday inked his administration’s first trade deal with South Korea, which he described as “a historic milestone” and a promise fulfilled to his countrymen.
“The new US-Korea agreement includes significant improvements to reduce our trade deficit and expand opportunities to export American products to South Korea,” Trump told reporters at the signing ceremony in New York on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly.
Describing it as a “very big deal” and a great day for the two countries, Trump said these outcomes give the finest American-made automobiles, innovative medicines and agricultural crops a much better access to Korean markets. “I think our farmers are going to be extremely happy. It was very limited as to what they could do and what they could send. And now, it is an open market and they are going to be sending a lot more farm products. That makes me feel very good,” he said.
Trump said as a part of the agreement, the US has also secured an increased access to America’s auto industry.
According to the US Trade Representatives, since the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) came into effect in 2012, the US trade deficit in goods with Korea increased by 75 per cent from USD 13.2 billion to USD 23.1 billion (2017), while the overall deficit increased by 57 per cent from USD 6.3 billion to USD 9.8 billion (2017).
“Through negotiations to improve KORUS, the United States has secured changes that will reduce the trade deficit and ensure that KORUS is a good deal for American workers, farmers and businesses,” it said, adding that the US achieved important steps to improve the large trade deficit in industrial goods and address the KORUS implementation concerns that have hindered American export growth.
Trump said the agreement will reduce bureaucracy and increase prosperity in both the countries. Workers in the US and South Korea will find new customers and new opportunities to expand and grow.
“Our teams will be working hard to ensure that the terms of the deal are fully implemented,” he said.
South Korean President Moon Jae-In said the free trade agreement between the two countries is significant in the sense that it expands the alliance to the economic realm as well.
“Today we have made amendments and modifications to improve the existing agreement. With the swift conclusion of the negotiations for the revision, the uncertainty surrounding our FTA has been eliminated. And, as a result, companies from both countries will now be able to do business under more stable conditions,” he said.
In addition, he hoped that this will provide them with a platform upon which the economic ties of the two countries will be elevated to a higher level in a freer, fairer, and more mutually beneficial direction.
During the meeting, Moon shared with Trump the outcomes of September’s inter-Korean summit, which included Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un’s reiteration of his commitment to complete denuclearisation.
Trump commended Moon on conducting a successful third inter-Korean summit with the North Korean leader, Chairman Kim, and noted that there remained much work to be done to accomplish their mutual goal of achieving the final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea.
“The two leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining vigorous enforcement of existing sanctions to ensure North Korea understands that denuclearisation is the only path to economic prosperity and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting.
“Both leaders also discussed plans for a second summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim in the not too distant future and committed to closely coordinate on next steps,” it added.
In the meantime, a showdown looms at the United Nations over Iran on Tuesday as President Donald Trump and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani are set to square off during the world’s biggest diplomatic gathering.
On the opening day of the General Assembly debate, Trump and Rouhani are to take their turn at the podium four months after the US president ditched the Iran nuclear deal.
The five remaining parties to the agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — announced Monday plans to keep business ties alive with Iran, staring down Washington’s move to impose sanctions.
Eyeing his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump will also tout his diplomacy with Pyongyang as a win, even if the North has taken little concrete action to dismantle its missile and nuclear programs.
Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May, to the dismay of European allies, Russia and China which had invested years in negotiations to achieve a milestone agreement on keeping Iran’s nuclear ambitions in check.
In his address, Rouhani will stress that Iran continues to stick to the 2015 deal and portray the United States as a pariah for breaking its international commitments.
Trump used his UN address last year to bash the nuclear deal as “an embarrassment”, signaling that the United States was ready to walk away from the agreement.
After its exit, the United States maintains that it is seeking to ramp up pressure on Iran which it accuses of sowing chaos in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.
“As I have said repeatedly, regime change in Iran is not the administration’s policy,” Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton told reporters.
“We’ve imposed very stringent sanctions on Iran, more are coming, and what we expect from Iran is massive changes in their behavior,” he said.
After a late meeting on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced that a new legal entity would be set up to preserve oil and other business links with Iran.
“This will mean that EU member-states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran,” Mogherini told reporters, flanked by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
No Trump-Rouhani meeting
Rouhani has said he has no plans to meet Trump while in New York during the marathon of meetings and slammed the offer of talks as “not genuine”.
As a precondition for any dialogue, Rouhani said Trump would need to repair the damage done by exiting the nuclear deal. “That bridge must be rebuilt,” he told NBC news.
On Wednesday, Trump will for the first time chair a meeting of the Security Council on non-proliferation that will give him a fresh opportunity to make the case for a tougher international stance on Iran.
“The Trump administration’s approach toward Iran seems to boil down to: squeeze and let’s see what will come,” said Robert Malley, president of International Crisis Group.
Malley warns that “rising tensions between the US and Iran in the absence of diplomatic channels is a recipe for an accidental, perilous clash.”
U-turn on North Korea
With only six weeks to go before key midterm US elections, Trump will be seeking to appeal to his hard-right voter base from the dais of the General Assembly.
Trump used his debut address 12 months ago to threaten to “totally destroy” North Korea and belittled its leader as “rocket man,” prompting Kim to respond by calling the US president “mentally deranged.”
But returning to New York, Trump hailed “tremendous progress” to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests and said that a year later it was a “much different time.”
“Chairman Kim has been really very open and terrific, frankly, and I think he wants to see something happen,” Trump said after meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Also making his second address at the General Assembly, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to take issue with Trump’s America-First policy and make the case for strengthening the rules-based multilateral order.
Macron is championing the Paris climate agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that Trump ditched in June, arguing it would harm the US economy.
Zee with additional report from Guardian NG