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Korea could file suit with WTO against US protectionist measures: minister nominee

South Korea's trade minister nominee said Monday that he does not rule out the possibility of filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over US protectionist measures.

Paik Un-gyu said the US has slapped excessive anti-dumping and countervailing duties on South Korean steel products at a time when they are neither being dumped nor benefiting from government subsidies.

He outlined his views in a written answer to a question raised by an opposition lawmaker ahead of a parliamentary confirmation hearing.

In South Korea, the president is empowered to appoint nominees without the consent of the National Assembly after a confirmation hearing is held. 

He can take such a step even if lawmakers believe the person tapped for office is unfit for the job. 

The prime minister is the only Cabinet post that requires parliamentary approval.

In April, Seoul took issue with the US heavy punitive tariffs on South Korean imports during a WTO meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

In April, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a probe into whether steel imports undermine US national security.

"They're dumping steel and destroying our steel industry, they've been doing it for decades, and I'm stopping it. It'll stop," Trump said on board Air Force One en route to France last week, in an apparent reference to South Korea and other steel exporters.

Paik also said South Korea plans to discuss with the US when they can open the process of revising their bilateral free trade deal, noting South Korea's trade chief has yet to be named under the ongoing government reorganization plan.

The bill on the government reorganization has been gathering dust in the National Assembly due to a prolonged political standoff.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently sent a letter to South Korea calling for the convening of a special Joint Committee meeting under the free trade deal to start the process of negotiating to remove barriers to US trade and consider needed amendments to the agreement.

According to the trade pact, a special joint committee can be held within 30 days upon request by one party, with the two sides needing to reach an agreement on decisions made at the committee.

The free trade deal, which went into effect in 2012, has widely been considered a symbol of the economic alliance between the two countries, but Trump has vowed to fix or scrap the free trade deal, calling it "horrible." (Yonhap)

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