South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday ordered his government to consider all available measures to counter what he called "unfair" US trade safeguards against South Korean products, including a dispute settlement process at the World Trade Organization.
"I want you to confidently and resolutely deal with unfair trade protectionist measures by considering filing a formal complaint with the WTO and reviewing possible violation of the Korea-US free trade agreement, and also actively point out the unfairness of such measures in negotiations to revise the Korea-US FTA," the president said in a weekly meeting with top aides at his office Cheong Wa Dae.
Moon's remarks come after Washington announced plans to slap import tariffs of up to 50 percent on large washing machines and solar cell imports from other countries, including South Korea.
The US has also introduced plans to impose high import tariffs on steel products from South Korea and a handful of other countries.
"Last year, our country's exports increased 15.8 percent on-year to mark the highest rate of growth among the world's 10 largest exporting countries while also moving up two notches to become the world's sixth-largest exporter," the president said.
"However, trade protectionism continues to increase amid concerns over jitters in foreign exchange and oil prices. Also, the steel, electronics, solar cell and washing machine industries are expected to face problems in exports despite their global competitiveness due to US trade restrictions against our products," he added.
Moon called for stepped up efforts to support the affected industries.
"I urge the government to thoroughly review the possible effect of such measures on exports and come up with comprehensive support measures," he told the meeting, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.
Turning to the domestic front, the president hinted that there would be no government intervention in the proposed shutdown of a production facility of GM Korea Co., the local unit of US automaker General Motors Co.
The US company is said to have asked for large financial support from the South Korean government to keep its plant in Gunsan running, one of four GM Korea production facilities in South Korea.
Moon apparently dismissed the request, calling for measures to keep Gunsan's local economy running after the proposed shutdown of the GM Korea plant.
"Great damage to the local economy of Gunsan is expected due to the decision to shut down the Gunsan factory of GM Korea. I call for the formation of a pan-government taskforce to revitalize the local economy of Gunsan and special measures to keep the local economy alive," he said.
"I want you to actively consider all available measures, such as designating a special industrial crisis district or an employment crisis area, should such steps be possible under the current system, and also come up with emergency measures to help those who lose their jobs," the president said. (Yonhap)