Seoul to Make Concessions on Cars to Avoid U.S. Steel Tariffs
The government is in the final round of negotiations with the U.S. to avoid high tariffs on steel by making concessions in the automobile sector.
The U.S. has threatened to slap a 25-percent tariff on steel imports starting Friday, with President Donald Trump claiming that a flood of low-priced steel imports is threatening its national security.
A government official here said Wednesday that the U.S. has been pressuring Korea by linking the steel tariffs with talks to revise the bilateral free trade agreement that went into effect in 2012.
The government is considering accepting the U.S.' demands on pickup trucks. Under the FTA, the U.S. is required to lower the 25-percent tariff on Korean trucks next year and eventually scrap them in 2021, but the U.S. wants to delay the schedule to protect its own fragile auto industry and Korea is minded to concede.
The U.S. market for pickup trucks is dominated by General Motors and Ford, and the segment accounts for a whopping 15 percent of all car sales in America and has been growing rapidly in recent years.
Korean automakers export no pickup trucks to the U.S. but had been hoping to break into the lucrative market. One industry insider said, "If the 25-percent tariff is maintained, truck exports to the U.S. will be virtually impossible."
The government is also discussing the more controversial step of easing safety and environmental standards for U.S. cars sold here, which the virulently anti-environmental U.S. administration finds offensive.
At present, the U.S. can export up to 25,000 cars to Korea that meet only American safety guidelines, but the U.S. wants Korea to increase that quota. Cars accounted for 62 percent of the U.S.' trade deficit with Korea last year, largely because nobody here is interested in the clumsily designed gas-guzzling cars American firms make.
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