South Korea makes concessions to preserve USA trade deal

Vice Premier Han Zheng touches on the issue of tariffs in a speech

Vice Premier Han Zheng touches on the issue of tariffs in a speech

Seoul has agreed to double the import quota on American-made cars, as well as reduce the total amount of steel it exports to the USA annually by adhering to a quota of 2.68 million tons of steel (roughly 70 percent of its average for the past three years). Media reports said United States automakers would gain improved market access but Korean steelmakers would be hit with quotas while avoiding hefty tariffs.

"If the result is too lopsided in favor of one side, there might have to be a renegotiation later", Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong said Monday in Seoul, adding that he hoped there would be no need for further renegotiations. Cars account for more than 70 percent of the surplus.

South Korea is the first to get the U.S. to exclude duties on steel.

While negotiations were underway, Washington granted a temporary deferment to seven countries, including South Korea, on steel import restrictions.

South Korea's top trade negotiator said Monday that the revised agreement calls for delaying the earlier agreed-to elimination of tariffs on South Korean-made pickup trucks to 2041 from 2021.

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It also doubled the number of vehicles that can enter the Korean market without meeting its safety regulations to 50,000 units a year.

He noted that although up to 50,000 US cars meeting the USA safety regulations will be imported under the fresh deal, major US automakers exported fewer than 10,000 vehicles to South Korea a year ago.

In return, South Korea said it would improve access for United States automakers under the bilateral free trade deal known as Korus, the country's trade ministry said. Ford Motor Co and General Motors each shipped fewer than 10,000 vehicles from the United States to South Korea previous year.

USA officials, on Friday, had said an agreement could be announced in the coming week.

While South Korea made some concessions to US demands on the key auto trade issues, the revision of the free trade pact aligns with South Korea's own interests, experts said. Korean negotiators rejected demands for a higher USA content requirement. "It was a deal that was causing a lot of problems for our country, in terms of employment and in terms of lots of other things", Trump said.

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"It will encompass, if it goes through, both the 232s and broader trade issues".

The intelligence agency also said Seoul will seek to simultaneously provide security guarantees for the North and make it give up its nuclear weapons when the two Koreas hold a summit.

"As the trade disputes (of washers and solar panels) took place the private sector, not decided by the government, we will have to wait and see", he noted.

The steel tariff was put on the negotiation table after the Trump administration signed an order to impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel earlier this month.

Cars are a major reason for Seoul's trade surplus with Washington.

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