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Seoul, Tokyo hold strained discussion of export curbs

July 29,2019
Senior trade officials from Korea and Japan met for the first time since Tokyo imposed controversial export restrictions earlier this month, and Korea’s side urged Japan to discontinue its curbs.

The meeting occurred on the sidelines of the six-day Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) discussions held in Zhengzhou, China.

Senior trade officials from Seoul again asked their counterparts from Tokyo to withdraw export restrictions on three categories of industrial materials, and drop the idea of removing Korea from a so-called “white list” of countries given preferential treatment in export procedures.

According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Saturday, Yeo Han-koo, head of the Korean ministry’s trade negotiation bureau, met with four senior Japanese trade officials including Akihiko Tamura, deputy director-general for trade policy of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, as well as Yasuhiko Yoshida, deputy director-general for the economic affairs bureau of Tokyo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The last meeting between trade representatives of the two governments was on July 12 in Tokyo. Lower level bureaucrats participated in that meeting.

Yeo reemphasized Korea’s request to have Japan to bring in “high-ranking officials with responsibility” to engage in talks about the escalating trade conflict.

Tokyo has refused a top-ranking meeting on the issue.

“Japan’s export restriction measures damage the international trade order and violate the free trade order,” Yeo told Japanese officials, according to the Korean Trade Ministry. “So Japan must retract its export restrictions and keep Korea on its ‘white list.’”

Seoul has been recommending Tokyo not aggravate tensions between the two neighbors, including the possible elimination of Korea from its “white list” of 27 trusted trading partners.

Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee returned home from a five-day visit to the United States Saturday after meeting with U.S. political and business officials.

At the RCEP meeting, Yeo held talks with representatives of 13 attending countries, the Trade Ministry said. They agreed with him, according to the ministry, on the negative influence that Japan’s export restrictions could have on the global supply chain.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]