Back To Top

Minister says US washers safeguard under review for WTO complaint

Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said Friday that the government is reviewing filing a complaint to the World Trade Organization over the US’ safeguard measure on Korean washers. Regarding a new steel tariff, the minister also said it would take action in case of a failure in negotiations.

“We are making utmost efforts (to deal with the issue). ... We will take actions if our demand is not met,” he said in a radio interview, without elaborating.

The finance minister, however, declined to comment when asked whether Korea would impose retaliatory tariffs if the US does not exclude Korea from high tariffs.

“Since we are in the (free trade) negotiation with the US, it is not appropriate to say something presumptively,” he said.

Korea and the US resumed their third round of talks Thursday to review their bilateral free trade agreement at the US Trade Representative’s office in Washington. The two-day talks were led by Korean Deputy Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee and US Assistant Trade Representative Michael Beeman.

Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon (Yonhap)
Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon (Yonhap)

During the talks, the two sides reportedly focused on the US’ high tariff imposed on imported steels. Earlier this month, the Trump administration signed an order to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel.

Trump offered a possibility of exemption if allies satisfy him in revising trade agreements. He exempted Canada and Mexico, saying a final decision would be made based on negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Some local experts say the steel issue should not be handled on the trade negotiation table as it is a “security” issue and not a “trade” issue as Trump claims.

“Even if Korea is excluded from the steel tariff during the FTA talks, it is not necessarily a good thing because we have to give up something else. We may have to give up the automobile sector, which accounts for around 30 percent of total exports to the US,” said a government official who asked for anonymity.

Apart from the tariff issue, the two sides also reportedly discussed the mechanism of investor-state dispute settlement and the US trade deficit on automobile that were handled during the first and second rounds of talks.

On the same day when the two set down to discuss their trade deal, Trump made a remark that seemed to threaten to withdraw US troops stationed in Korea if he does not get what he wants regarding trade with Seoul, according to the Washington Post on Thursday.

Trump was quoted as saying in his speech to donors in Missouri, “We have a very big trade deficit (with Korea), and we protect them. … We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens.”

As Korean officials looked for clarification on his comments, the White House defended his comment, saying the president “did not suggest removing American forces from South Korea.”

By Shin Ji-hye (