March 15 (UPI) -- The United States is expected to request significant concessions from South Korea in the course of ongoing trade negotiations that could culminate in heavy tariffs against imported South Korean steel, according to a South Korean press report.
South Korean officials at Seoul's commerce ministry stated Thursday trade representatives of both sides are to begin a third round of negotiations in Washington, and on the agenda are steel and automobile tariffs, South Korean news service EDaily reported.
The United States seeks to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported South Korean steel, a move that could be met with strong opposition from Seoul trade representatives.
Trade officials on both sides of the negotiating table are engaging in difficult discussions as U.S. President Donald Trump is defending his attacks on the KORUS FTA, the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement that was approved by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
"We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them," Trump reportedly said. "We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers between North and South Korea. Let's see what happens."
The actual number of troops is 28,000, according to U.S. Forces Korea.
Baek Woon-kyu, South Korea's minister of trade, industry and energy, told reporters last week South Koreans should brace themselves while the government "negotiates extensively with the United States in order to minimize the damage."
According to EDaily, South Korea is preparing to meet U.S. demands, including a possible resolution to South Korean tariff barriers against U.S. automobiles.
U.S. vehicles might not comply with South Korean domestic safety standards at present, but trade representatives could be preparing to meet demands to increase U.S. car imports by 25,000 vehicles annually, according to the report.