The government said Thursday it will actively tackle any unfair trade barriers that can be imposed on South Korean products by foreign countries, including filing complaints with the World Trade Organization.
The move comes amid concerns the US government is moving to slap anti-dumping tariffs and other trade barriers on South Korean steel products.
“We’ve stressed on several occasions to the US side that Seoul is Washington’s ally, a massive importer of American arms and exports of South Korean steel products have been declining,” said Park Ki-young, official of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in charge of industrial materials and parts.
He said South Korean steel companies have actually been serving the US economy by investing in facilities and employing people.
Park outlined his views at a forum with officials of steel companies.
Another official said the Seoul government will actively consider bringing any unfair trade barriers to the WTO while continuing to get its position heard by foreign governments in trade talks and other diplomatic occasions.
In an apparent precursor to fresh trade barriers to foreign steel imports, the Donald Trump administration has invoked Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, a rarely used tool that allows emergency trade sanctions on “national security” grounds.
While on the campaign trail last year, Trump has said steel is a big problem.
In April, Trump ordered a probe into whether steel imports undermined US national security.
Trade Minister Paik Un-gyu said in July the US has slapped excessive anti-dumping and countervailing duties on South Korean steel products at a time when they are neither being dumped nor benefiting from government subsidies.
Last month, South Korea won a case at the WTO against the US over anti-dumping duties that Washington slapped on South Korean steel pipes.
In July 2014, the US Commerce Department levied 9.9 percent to 15.8 percent anti-dumping duties on oil country tubular goods imports from Hyundai Steel, Nexteel, Seah Steel Corp. and Husteel.
OCTG is one of the fastest growing sectors in the pipelines market and South Korean producers enjoyed a boom in the North American country’s oil and gas industry.
Five months later, South Korea submitted an appeal with the WTO against the tariff, arguing that the US calculation of margins for Korean products was not “reasonable” when compared to the rate of global profit margins.
The WTO dispute settlement panel sided with Seoul’s claim that the US incorrectly applied the term “same general category of products” in determining for OCTG products and didn’t use the actual profit data. The Korean companies exported 98 percent of their products to the United States.
South Korea exported $818 million worth of OCTG to the US in 2013, but the amount shrank to $262 million in 2015 and $271 million in 2016.