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US to consider S. Korea’s stance on looming auto tariffs: Mnuchin

As US President Donald Trump mulls a list of countries to impose auto tariffs on, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Washington will take South Korea’s stance on the matter into account, Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance said Friday.

According to the ministry, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki requested the US Treasury support the exemption of South Korea from auto import tariffs on cars that the Trump administration deems a threat to national security. 

cap: Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki (left) shakes hands with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Washington on Friday. (Yonhap)
cap: Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki (left) shakes hands with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Washington on Friday. (Yonhap)

The request came during talks between Hong and Mnuchin in Washington amid the Korean finance minister’s trip for the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors’ meeting. The trip also includes meetings concerning the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Hong has made the request as Trump’s previously extended auto tariff six-month deadline fast approaches in mid-November. The US President announced in May that he would impose tariffs on some imported cars and auto parts that pose a national threat, but delayed the decision to give more room for trade negotiations.

Hong and Mnuchin also discussed the issue of Japan’s export curbs of key materials needed for South Korea’s manufacturing of semiconductors and display panels.

On the Seoul-Tokyo trade talks on export curbs – which have stalled since both sides’ failure to reach an agreement at the World Trade Organization in Geneva last week – Mnuchin voiced hope that the issue would be resolved swiftly with efforts from both sides.

At the same time, the US Treasury secretary expressed concerns of possible negative effects stemming from Japan’s decision that could weigh on the global economy.

Seoul had formally filed a complaint with the WTO last month, claiming Japan has violated a set of international trade rules in implementing regulations on imports to Korea.

Meanwhile, Mnuchin said he had high regards for Korea’s efforts to improve transparency on its foreign exchange policy, including the recent decision to increase frequency of data regarding its foreign exchange market intervention.

The US Treasury in May named South Korea as one of the countries suspected of currency manipulation and put it on its monitoring list. The list included China, Japan, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

It had then added that Korea could be removed from the list in six months, should it maintain conditions at the time.

Under revised standards, a US trading partner is named a currency manipulator if it has a bilateral trade surplus of $20 billion or more with the US, a current account surplus of 2 percent or more of its gross domestic product and persistent one-sided intervention in foreign exchange markets.

South Korea met only one the account surplus criteria in May, at 4.7 percent of its GDP as of 2018.

Hong and Mnuchin also signed a memorandum of understanding on infrastructure that supports mutual investment and cooperation in winning joint projects in Latin America and Southeast Asia. This marks the first of such bilateral agreement between the two government departments.

By Jung Min-kyung (