SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Korea Bizwire) – Deputy Minister for Trade Kang Sung-chun left for the United States yesterday as South Korea looks to make one last push to encourage its second-largest trading partner to back off from imposing tariffs on solar panels and washing machines.
Though fingers are crossed, the general mood is pessimistic, with the belief that erection of safeguards and the enactment of “section 232” by the Americans is a now question of when, not if.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy explained that the deputy minister’s trip is to “discuss the various long-standing issues concerning the FTA and other trade agreements”.
As President Trump nears his one-year anniversary in office, South Korean trade officials are bracing themselves for the White House to ramp up protectionist trade policies.
Final decision-making powers on safeguards rest with the executive office; the president is given 60 days after receiving the U.S. International Trade Commission’s advisory report on his desk to decide how to proceed.
The deadline is January 26 for solar panels, and February 4 for washing machines.
Meanwhile, the Department of Commerce is finalizing its report on Section 232 and will submit the document to the White House in three days.
With the clock ticking on a final decision, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy held a press conference on January 8 stating, “To avoid waiting until it’s too late, [the ministry] will reach out to the United States by actively carrying out trade visits to discuss ways to reduce the economic fallout, and furthermore will respond to any actions taken that infringe upon international trade regulations through legal proceedings at the WTO.”
Also in the works is for Minister for Trade Baek Woon-kyu to follow in the deputy minister’s footsteps by heading stateside this month for trade talks with Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce.
In a sign of bad news, the January 9 issue of American trade publication “Inside US Trade” cited numerous industry insiders and experts who predicted that Canada and Mexico, two signatories of NAFTA, would not see safeguards imposed on their exports. These anonymously quoted individuals added that South Korea, on the other hand, will be levied tariffs.
This is despite the fact that an ITC investigation into washing machines from FTA partner nations such as South Korea and Mexico were discovered to have not caused significant harm to the American economy.
Inside US Trade included in its piece on safeguards that there have been reports the U.S. government is easing off the issue with an eye on the upcoming sixth round of NAFTA negotiations will take place from January 23 through 28.