The Korea Herald


Ruling party calls for retaliatory measures against US steel tariff proposal

By Yonhap

Published : Feb. 20, 2018 - 11:48

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Members of the ruling Democratic Party reacted strongly to a US proposal to impose a massive tariff on South Korean steel imports, saying the country should consider retaliatory measures, such as restrictions on American agricultural imports.

The US Commerce Department suggested last Friday slapping a 53 percent tariff on steel imports from a dozen countries, including South Korea, as part of measures to protect the local industry. The proposal came after the US imposed steep tariffs on imports of Korean washing machines and solar cell panels.

On Monday, President Moon Jae-in ordered the government to deal with such "unfair protectionist trade measures" in a "confident and resolute" manner, raising concerns that the two allies could clash head-on over trade issues.

The ruling Democratic Party also showed a tough reaction to the US move.

"I express strong regret over the unilateral and dogmatic measure and the wrong retaliatory tariff must be scrapped immediately," Rep. Woo Won-shik, the ruling party's floor leader, said during a party meeting.

"We have to look closely into whether a series of US measures to strengthen trade barriers are not in violation of World Trade Organization rules, and we should actively consider corresponding retaliatory measures."

Woo also said it is a far-fetched claim that civilian steel imports pose a threat to the US.

Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo, the party's deputy chief policymaker, was more specific about retaliatory measures.

"The US trade pressure has crossed the line," Hong said. "We also have to strengthen quarantine inspections on agricultural and livestock products. I think we can take considerable measures against American agricultural and livestock products."

Ruling party`s floor leader Rep. Woo Won-shik (center) speaks during a party meeting held at the National Assembly on Tuesday. (Yonhap) Ruling party`s floor leader Rep. Woo Won-shik (center) speaks during a party meeting held at the National Assembly on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The proposed tariff was one of three suggestions that the Commerce Department made to President Donald Trump to protect the local industry. The two other suggestions are a global tariff of at least 24 percent on all steel imports from all countries and a quota for all countries equal to 63 percent of their respective 2017 exports to the US.

Trump is expected to make a decision by April 11 on what measures he will take.

The steep tariff proposal rattled South Korea because the country was the only US ally on the 12-nation list. Critics and conservative opposition parties say it could be a sign of strained relations between the two countries.

Critics also express concern that trade tensions could negatively affect the recent rapprochement between South and North Korea, which Seoul hopes will lead to talks between Washington and Pyongyang, and then a third inter-Korean summit.

But the ruling party maintains that security is one thing and trade is another

"We will separate security from trade, and respond to trade pressure in a stern and cool-headed manner," said Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon, the party's chief policymaker. (Yonhap)