South Korea pledges action against U.S. trade protectionism

By Jennie Oh  |  Updated Feb. 20, 2018 at 7:50 PM
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SEOUL, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Seoul will take firm measures against Washington's trade protectionist moves including high tariffs on steel products, South Korea's presidential office said Tuesday.

Hong Jang-pyo, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, announced in a news conference that the government launched a World Trade Organization dispute settlement process last week regarding the United States' anti-dumping and countervailing duty measures on steel products and transformers, Hankook Ilbo reported.

This comes after the U.S. Commerce Department on Friday advised President Donald Trump to impose steep duties on foreign steel as a means of protecting homegrown industries.

Seoul has cried foul as it has been listed among the dozen countries to be hit with a 53 percent tariff, while other major steel exporters such as Japan and Canada were excluded.

South Korean companies such as LG and Samsung Electronics are likely to suffer a setback in the U.S. market after Trump last month signed an executive order imposing tariffs of up to 50 percent on large washing machines and up to 30 percent on solar panels.

Many observer say the United States' safeguard measures unfairly target foreign businesses in a bid to protect American companies, although the trade actions would only hurt U.S. consumers and downstream companies in the end.

Regarding the safeguard measures, Hong said bilateral negotiations are being held with the United States, after Seoul requested proper consultations be made in accordance with WTO rules.

If the talks break down, the government plans to lodge an official complaint with the intergovernmental trade body, News 1 reported.

He added that government officials will reach out to Washington before Trump decides on steel tariffs in mid-April, and strive to minimize the fallout on South Korean businesses.

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