South Korea Bends To Trump's Trade Demands To Dodge Steel Tariffs

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South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong announced on March 26 that the USA government's additional 25% tariff will not be applied to 2.68 million tons of South Korean steel, which is equivalent to 74% of the steel South Korea exported to the US previous year. The agreement would result in S. Korea being exempted from the United States recently announced steel tariffs, but would be subject to a steel quota equal to about 2.68 million tons, or 70 percent of the average exports to the USA over the previous three years.

It was announced last week that South Korea would receive a temporary exemption to the US' 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% tariff on aluminum imports, which took effect March 23.

Japan's big business lobby group complained that Japan, unlike Canada and Mexico and now South Korea, had not received an exemption on tariffs, calling it "regrettable" and urging the Abe government to keep trying.

In return for the exemption, South Korea allowed the USA to set an import ceiling on South Korean steel products at 2.68 million tons per year, or 70 percent of South Korea's average steel exports to the country for three years through 2017.

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The U.S. and South Korea seem to have finally resolved the trade disputes tearing at the alliance. Monday's agreement may send a better message to North Korea ahead of the summit meetings with Kim Jong Un. "I did not think of other factors, just focusing on our national interests".

The country is one of seven USA trading partners given temporary waivers from steel and aluminum tariffs that Washington implemented on Friday.

The announcement was made by Kim Hyun-chong, Seoul's Trade minister, on his arrival at the Incheon International Airport after talks in Washington. They came as a relief to South Korean industries, although the steel companies said they had wanted a larger quota of tariff-free exports to the United States.

Seoul and Washington began renegotiations on their free trade pact from January as U.S. President Donald Trump called it a "horrible" deal. Cars account for more than 70 percent of the surplus. It also follows an announcement last week that the US will impose tariffs worth $50 billion on a variety of Chinese goods.

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The deal would also allow the U.S.to extend existing tariffs on Korean pickup trucks, which were set to expire in 2021, by an additional 20 years, according to Reuters.

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

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross elaborated, saying the U.S.is close to a "pretty comprehensive resolution" with South Korea. USA tariffs on South Korean pickup trucks have also been extended by 20 years until 2041, while USA carmakers have had their export quotas relaxed.

"I don't see a high chance of automakers expanding U.S. imports", he said.

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A team of three officials will be led by Ri Son Gwon, the chairman of North Korea's committee for the peaceful reunification of the country, the North told its neighbour early on Saturday, the South's Unification Ministry said.

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