South Korea whose export-oriented economy relies largely on auto shipments will remain “vigilant” until it can get an exemption from possibly hefty U.S. tariffs, the country’s trade minister said ahead of her trip to the U.S. for negotiations on the matter next week.
“We should stay vigilant” on upcoming decisions by the U.S. on additional tariffs on imported cars including those shipped from Korea, Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea’s deputy minister for trade negotiations told reporters on Tuesday. “We will deliver the government’s stance [to the U.S.] that Korea should be exempted from the measure” according to the already agreed auto trading deals under the free trade pack between the two countries.
Yoo will embark on a trip to the United States next week for talks with U.S. government officials, including White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, to prevent Korea from being slapped additional tariffs on cars.
The U.S. government, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, is reviewing imposing additional 25 percent tariffs on automobile imports, citing threats to national security. U.S. President Donald Trump who has been given the authority to limit imports under the Act will announce his final decisions on May 18.
“It is unpredictable what the U.S. government’s final decisions would be like,” said Yoo. “The U.S. isn’t showing any moves at the moment but it will come out with some kinds of decisions, whether to order additional investigations or to announce the final measures.”
She said the Korean government will go all out to negotiate to maximize national interest and deliver good news to the local auto industry that has been already plagued by slow sales at home and abroad. Steep tariffs on Korean car imports to the U.S., which is one of key markets for Korean car makers, would further cripple their performance.
Yoo said external conditions remain uncertain, boding ill to the country’s exports that have contracted in the past five months. The U.S.’s America First policy remains intact while the U.S.-China trade dispute is escalating and China’s economy is slowing, she added.
“We will put out efforts to shift export momentum by swiftly promoting export-boosting measures,” she said.
Yoo will depart for the U.S. on May 13 for a three-day trip. She is currently adjusting her meeting schedule with senior U.S. trade authorities including Kudlow, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the ministry said.
By Lim Sung-hyun and Lee Eun-joo
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