U.S., South Korea revise trade offer, Korean steel deals with quota

SEOUL (Reuters) – The United States and South Korea accepted revise a trade pact greatly criticized by U.S. President Donald Trump, Seoul said on Monday, with U.S. car manufacturers winning better market access and Korean steelmakers struck with quotas however avoiding hefty tariffs.

FILE PICTURE: Rolled steel are seen at a Hyundai Steel plant in Dangjin, about 130 km (81 miles) southwest of Seoul June 15, 2011. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won/File Image

The prepared changes in the U.S.-Korea Open Market Contract (KORUS) were viewed as restricted, leaving South Korea’s key automobile exports unblemished and helping soothe worries that Trump’s difficult technique might begin a spiraling international trade war.

In April, Trump informed Reuters he would either renegotiate or end what he called a “awful” trade deal that has doubled the United States goods trade deficit with South Korea because 2012.

Asian shares steadied on Monday, stemming recently’s substantial losses after Trump’s action on steel and aluminum, and his plans to slap tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese items. [MKTS/GLOB]

The arrangement implies South Korea will be required to cut its steel exports to the U.S. by 30 percent of previous three years’ average, in exchange for ending up being the first U.S. ally to get an indefinite exemption on steel tariffs imposed by Trump.

“We had heated up conversations,” South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong said at a media rundown in Seoul. “The latest agreement got rid of 2 unpredictabilities,” he stated, referring to steel tariff exemptions and KORUS renegotiation.

Last week, Trump temporarily omitted six trade partners, including Canada, Mexico and the European Union from greater U.S. import duties on steel and aluminum which came into impact on Friday.

South Korea has actually gotten a quota of about 2.68 million tonnes of steel exports, or 70 percent of the yearly average Korean steel exports to the United States in between 2015-2017, which will be exempt from the brand-new tariffs, the ministry stated in a declaration.

South Korea is not permitted to export steel items exceeding that quota to the U.S. market, a ministry official stated.

“This leaves a bad precedent of exchanging steel tariffs – which is a breach of worldwide trade law – for a legitimate complimentary trade arrangement, in settlements,” said Wonmog Choi, teacher of law at Ewha Womans University.


South Korea is the third-largest steel exporter to the United States and the world’s leading importer of Chinese steel, leading to concerns it was an avenue for China’s excess capability.

Trump was elected in 2016 after assuring to punish what he viewed as unreasonable trade practices by other countries, especially China.

While Trump was adamant the KORUS offer needed renegotiating, the trade spat risked weakening relations in between Seoul and Washington at an essential time, as Washington and Seoul work carefully to aim to consist of a nuclear-armed North Korea.

“We are at a time when U.S.-South Korea cooperation is needed more than ever ahead of the inter-Korean summit and the summit in between North Korea and the United States,” said a senior official at South Korea’s presidential Blue Home, who was not authorized to talk to media.

South Korean authorities said that while the offer agreed was the very best they could hope for, further pressure on trade was most likely under Trump’s presidency.

“If President Trump ends up being a two-term president … I believe there will be continuous (trade) threats throughout that time,” Trade Minister Kim stated.

Shares in South Korean steelmakers rallied on Monday, with Dongbu Steel ( 016380. KS)leading gains as tariff exemptions were confirmed.

South Korea’s steel association said in a statement it was a “relief” that South Korea has actually been excluded from U.S. steel tariffs, but regrettable it was not able to secure higher quotas.


As part of the KORUS modification, the countries accepted extend U.S. tariffs on Korean pickup by 20 years till 2041.

No South Korean car manufacturers presently export pickup trucks to the United States, however Hyundai Motor ( 005380. KS )stated last year it planned to release a design there to catch up with a shift far from sedans.

Hyundai stated on Monday it was “too early to elaborate on the information such as the estimated timing of the model release and production place”. Its shares fell 1.3 percent.

Under KORUS revisions, U.S. car manufacturers will be able to bring into South Korea 50,000 lorries per car manufacturer annually that meet U.S. safety standards, not necessarily Korean requirements, up from 25,000 lorries formerly.

Kim stated no car manufacturers formerly surpassed the 25,000-vehicle limit. Ford Motor Co ( F.N) and General Motors ( GM.N) each shipped less than 10,000 automobiles in 2015.

“I do not see a high opportunity of automakers broadening U.S. imports,” he stated.

Kim Jong-hoon, a former chief negotiator for the KORUS FTA, said South Korea had actually fared relatively well in settlements.

“South Korea gave concessions in autos in return for steel tariff exemptions,” he told Reuters. “This is not a complimentary trade, but a managed trade.”

Reporting by Joyce Lee and Hyunjoo Jin; Additional reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Lincoln Feast