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Defend trade relationships

Mar 06,2018
The Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), which represents the country’s largest companies, sent letters to legislators and government officials in Washington asking the United States to exempt Korea from universal tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The letters went to 565 figures including Sen. Orrin Hatch, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In the letter, FKI Chairman Huh Chang-soo cited specific reasons why Washington should reconsider slapping import restrictions on Korean steel products under the Trump administration’s efforts to lessen the U.S. trade deficit.

The first reason is that South Korea and the United States have been bound by a defense treaty since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Korea as an ally should not be a U.S. target in a trade war.

Korea’s investment in the U.S. more than doubled since the start of a bilateral free trade agreement, and the United States has seen a surplus of more than $10 billion in services trade with Korea.

The fact that a private business organization joined in the plea against Trump trade offensive underscores the desperation of the Korean Inc.

Korea’s manufacturing activity could sharply deteriorate as the result of heavy import tariffs on residential washers, solar panels and steel products.

When exports and businesses are hurt, jobs are at risk. Hundreds of companies in the supply chain could end up bankrupt.

Despite the urgency, the government is oddly lukewarm. President Moon Jae-in has ordered the government to respond to the U.S. trade offensive with confidence and firmness. But we have yet to see action from the Trade and Industry Ministry or the Foreign Ministry.

Chinese and European Union governments are out to wage counterattacks against U.S. moves. Trade terms are pivotal to national interests in an open export-reliant economy like Korea. The government must do its utmost to defend national interests on the trade front.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 5, Page 34