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US trade chief to visit S. Korea for talks on supply chains, trade pact

Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo (left) met with US Trade Representative Katherine Chi Tai during a meeting in Italy on Oct. 13 (MOTIE)
Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo (left) met with US Trade Representative Katherine Chi Tai during a meeting in Italy on Oct. 13 (MOTIE)
US Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai was to visit South Korea on Thursday for talks on pending trade issues such as supply chains for key components and steel tariffs.

Tai is scheduled to arrive here from Japan later in the day for a four-day stay, the USTR office said in a release. It will be the first time in 10 years that the top US trade official visits the country.

The chief plans to meet with South Korean Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo on Friday for the joint committee meeting of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and to have separate talks with Seoul's Labor Minister An Kyung-duk on workers' rights and related trade policy.

On Saturday, she will have a meeting with female leaders from public and private sectors before leaving for India the following day, according to her office.

Key agenda at the Tai-Yeo meeting includes how to boost bilateral cooperation in global supply chains and tariffs on exports of Korean-made steel and aluminum.

Seoul and Washington have agreed to work more closely to ensure the resilience of supply chains for key components, including semiconductors, following a global supply shortage of chips and other major industrial items.

Earlier, the two sides agreed to create a new director-level dialogue channel on semiconductors and hold an inaugural meeting next month.

South Korea has also been pushing to revise the Section 232 tariffs on its steel and aluminum exports to the US, after Washington decided to allow duty-free importation of some European steel and aluminum products to the country.

The US-EU deal has sparked concerns over adverse impacts on South Korean exports.

Currently, the US waives a 25 percent tariff on South Korean steel imports in return for a yearly import quota of 2.63 million tons, or 70 percent of Seoul's average steel products export volume over the past three years, in accordance with their 2018 deal.

Tai will "meet with government officials and stakeholders to discuss the enduring US commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and to strengthen trade and economic relationships with key allies and partners," the office of the USTR said in a release.

The US is South Korea's second-largest trading partner, and South Korea is the US' sixth largest. (Yonhap)