Trump urges South Korean business leaders to invest more in US

SEOUL (The Straits Times/ANN) - In a bid to boost the US economy and create more jobs, Mr Trump has been aggressively pushing for trade partners to do more to tip the balance in the US' favour.

US President Donald Trump has hailed the billions worth of investments by some of South Korea's biggest conglomerates into his country, but said more can be done to further narrow their trade deficit.

Addressing a group of top business leaders from companies including Samsung, SK and Lotte in Seoul yesterday, he said they have "made great progress in reducing our trade imbalance and unleashing new prosperity for both of our countries".

Mr Trump lauded Lotte's recent US$3.1 billion (S$4.19 billion) investment in Louisiana to build an ethylene plant, and Korean Air's decision to buy 30 jets from Boeing, valued at more than US$9 billion. He also thanked Samsung, Hyundai, SK, CJ and Doosan for creating more than 50,000 jobs in the United States.

"We must remain vigilant and ensure that we keep moving forward towards a more balanced trade relationship and further reduce our trade deficit," added Mr Trump, who was in South Korea for a two-day visit to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Combined trade between the US and South Korea reached an all-time high of US$131.6 billion last year, up 10.3 per cent from the previous year, according to the South's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

But South Korea's trade surplus with the US fell 22.9 per cent to US$13.8 billion, which means the trade deficit for the US was reduced by the same amount.
In a bid to boost the US economy and create more jobs, Mr Trump has been aggressively pushing for trade partners to do more to tip the balance in the US' favour.

Mr Moon, addressing the media after his summit with Mr Trump yesterday, said the two leaders agreed to "further accelerate the momentum to expand trade and investments".

South Korea had been already pressured to renegotiate its 2012 free trade deal with the US to lower barriers of entry for the US car industry. The changes went into effect from the beginning of this year.

One major concession is to allow a maximum of 50,000 US car imports into South Korea - double the previous figure of 25,000.

Mr Trump also asked South Korean firms to expand their investments in the US, citing his country's business-friendly policies.

"We passed the largest tax cut and reform in the history of our country, and eliminated more than 30,000 pages of job-killing regulations - a record."

In response, Lotte said it is reviewing several things about expanding investment in the US, particularly in the hotel and tourism industry, while CJ expressed an interest to invest in the food and retail business.

Trade aside, Mr Trump also underscored the importance of the US-South Korea security alliance, and how dialogue with nuclear-armed North Korea has brought peace and stability to the Korean peninsula.

"So I just want to tell you that you're our friend. I've had a tremendous relationship. President Moon has treated me and our country with great respect, which I appreciate. Because we're doing a lot for you," he said, referring to the 28,000 US troops stationed in the South to defend the country.

On how his relationship with Mr Kim went from fire-and-fury foe to friend, Mr Trump said he, unlike his predecessors, decided to talk to the Kim leadership for once. "And we got along great."

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