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Trade rows won’t hurt alliance: Blue House

Feb 21,2018
The Blue House said it is taking a two track approach that separates intensifying trade conflict with the United States and the security alliance.

“Our government will tackle trade problems with major trading partners, including the United States, squarely in the point of securing our national interest,” said Hong Jang-pyo, the Blue House chief economic adviser, on Tuesday in a meeting with reporters. “If it is needed we will take bold actions based on international trade regulations under the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO is the most realistic tool in solving conflicts between countries without friction.”

But Hong stressed that it was not appropriate to consider such moves as “unfriendly” actions against the United States or interpret them from the view of diplomacy or security.

On Monday, President Moon Jae-in took a stern approach to intensifying protectionism by the Donald Trump administration since the beginning of the year including higher tariffs on washing machines and solar panels and a U.S. Commerce Department recommendation to raise tariffs and put quotas on imports from 12 countries including China and Korea.

Moon ordered his staff to look into taking complaints to the WTO as well as claiming violations of the bilateral free trade agreement between the two countries.

That has raised concerns of the long-standing alliance being affected negatively.

A Blue House official said Moon sees national security issues and trade issues separately. He believes the security problem is showing some stability with dialogue between the two Koreas and even Pyongyang-Washington dialogue becoming more possible.

“There’s a strong underlying belief that [on national security] the Korea-U.S. alliance is solid. But even in such a relationship, each country has to separately try to resolve clashing interests.”

The other Blue House official said the U.S. government’s latest trade actions are not related to its diplomatic or security policies.

“Our understanding is that the goal of the U.S. government’s investigation [of steel and aluminum imports] is to limit imports in order to protect its steel industry rather than from a political and diplomatic point of view,” Moon said.

He said the Korean government will continue to have dialogue with the U.S. government using statistical data.

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