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Moon takes on protectionism by Trump

Formal complaints via FTA talks or WTO are two possible routes
Feb 20,2018
이미지뷰
A plant in Dangjin, South Chungcheong, stacks hot rolled steel coils on Monday as Korean steel manufacturers worried about higher tariffs that may be imposed by the Donald Trump administration. [YONHAP]
President Moon Jae-in ordered the Korean government Monday to look into all ways to push back against the growing trade protectionism of the Donald Trump administration recently.

“We need to counter unreasonable trade protectionist measures confidently and resolutely, such as by filing a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and reviewing the possibilities [of the U.S.] violating the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement,” Moon said during a meeting with top aides at the Blue House. “We need to [also] actively raise the unfairness [of the measures] during the Korea-U.S. FTA negotiations.”

Moon stressed the importance of exports for growth of the Korean economy.

“Last year, Korean exports grew 15.8 percent, which was the highest among the top 10 global exporting countries, and at the same time Korea’s export ranking went up two notches compared to 2016 to become the world’s sixth biggest exporter,” Moon said. “That export growth was a major contributor to the nation’s economic growth last year.”

The president raised concerns about the protectionism of the Trump administration amid growing risks including the instability of the currency exchange rates and rising crude prices.

“Despite the international competitiveness of our industries like steel, electronics, solar panels and washing machines, the expansion of U.S. import restrictions is raising concerns over the country’s exports,” Moon said.

He ordered the government to improve innovations in order to raise Korean companies’ competitiveness in the global market while actively seeking out new export markets such as the northern Eurasian market that includes China, Mongolia and Russia as well as Asean countries such as Indonesia.

On Friday the U.S. Commerce Department released a report recommending the Trump administration impose global and country-specific tariffs as well as import quotas to curb steel and aluminum imports, saying that massive imports of steel and aluminum “threaten to impair the national security.”

The Commerce Department proposed a global tariff of a minimum of 24 percent on all steel imports or a tariff of a minimum of 53 percent on steel imported from 12 countries including China and Korea. In addition, it proposed setting quotas of 63 percent of each country’s 2017 exports to the United States.

The tariffs and quotas will be in addition to duties that are already in place.

Trump has until mid-April to decide whether to accept the recommendations for both steel and aluminum.

“I am glad that we were able to provide this analysis and these recommendations to the president,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “I look forward to his decision on any potential course of action.”

For two days last week, Trump harshly criticized other nations for taking advantages of the U.S. market resulting in a trade deficit of $566 billion last year, the highest since 2008.

Trump said his administration is looking into a reciprocal tax on imported goods and stopping a “murder” that has continued for 25 years.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]