SEOUL, Dec. 25 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s trade ministry and local steelmakers have discussed ways to cope with the United States’ growing trade protectionism including adjusting steel exports, officials said Monday.
The ministry held a meeting with trade experts and local steelmakers, including top player POSCO and its rival Hyundai Steel Co., on Thursday to discuss how to tackle Washington’s move to restrict the imports of South Korean steel products.
Some experts proposed the need for local companies to reduce steel exports, as the U.S. is investigating whether imports of foreign steel negatively affects its national security under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, according to government officials.
The U.S. invoked Section 232, a rarely used tool that allows emergency trade sanctions on “national security” grounds. U.S. President Donald Trump in April ordered an investigation into whether foreign steel imports affect national security.
“The government told steelmakers that they need to set up business plans by taking into account Washington’s stronger trade protectionism,” a ministry official said.
Industry watchers estimate that exports of South Korean steel are likely to reach 3.5 million tons this year, down from 3.74 million tons tallied for last year.
The volume of steel exports to the U.S. fell, hit by Washington’s imposition of tariffs, but the value of shipments rose as steel prices hiked.
In particular, export volumes and the prices of South Korean steelmakers’ oil country tubular goods (OCTG) increased, aided by a boom in the U.S. oil and gas industry.
The U.S. probe into foreign steel imports is likely to come out early next year.
South Korea’s trade ministry plans to consider filing complaints with the World Trade Organization (WTO) if the U.S. takes “unfair” measures to limit imports of South Korean steel products after the investigation.