SEOUL, March 9 (UPI) -- South Korea expressed regret over the United States' decision to impose a 25 percent tariff on foreign steel products and said it will consider lodging a complaint with the World Trade Organisation if an exemption isn't made.
Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Paik Un-gyu convened a meeting with local steel firms Friday morning, after U.S. President Donald Trump signed the order to slap steep tariffs on foreign steel, ignoring Seoul's repeated requests to exclude South Korean products from the measure.
Paik expressed concern that the U.S. trade action would take a sizeable toll on South Korean businesses, as they account for the third largest amount of foreign steel in the U.S. market after Canada and Brazil, Chosun Ilbo reported.
According to the Korea International Trade Association's report released on Friday, 60 percent of South Korea's pipe and tube exports were shipped to the U.S. last year.
Paik said Seoul will continue pushing for an exemption or an exclusion of some products from the U.S. steel duties.
"As tariffs have been imposed while the renegotiations for the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement are underway, we will consult with the U.S. to minimize the impact [on South Korean companies]," Paik told reporters, according to Yonhap.
If the request, once again, falls on deaf ears, Seoul will consider filing a complaint to the WTO, the minister said.
Paik added that the government will seek concerted efforts with other countries affected by the U.S. steel duties.
With fifteen days left until the measure takes effect, Trump said America will remain open to modifying or removing the tariffs for individual nations, "as long as we can agree on a way to ensure that their products no longer threaten our security."
Later on Friday, Seoul's presidential office announced its top envoy to Washington Chung Eui-yong relayed the request for an exemption from the tariff on steel.
On a separate note from his main mission of briefing President Trump on North Korea's invitation to hold dialogue, Chung met U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster on Thursday to bring up the steel trade issue.
Chung is said to have stressed the importance of the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
The U.S. officials reportedly said they will actively consider the request.