SEOUL: South Korea’s steel manufacturers over the weekend, following the latest signals from the United States to drastically increase the tariff rate for steel imports as part of President Donald Trump’s trade protectionist policy.
While figuring out a countermeasure, companies complained that the suggested action plan was not only excessive but also unfair as it unaccountably excluded some of the top steel exporting nations to the US.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Saturday held an emergency council with key steelmakers at Seoul’s Korea Technology Center under the presidency of Minister Paik Un-gyu, concerning Washington’s incoming trade restrictions for steel and aluminum, according to officials.
The meeting, held during the Lunar New Year national holiday, was attended by most of the top-level officials of the local steel industry including Posco Chairman Kwon Oh-joon, Hyundai Steel CEO Kang Hak-seok, and Korea Iron & Steel Association Vice Chairman Song Jae-bin.The US Department of Commerce announced Friday that it recommended that President Trump impose new tariffs on steel imports, based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The given clause allows the state chief to impose restrictions on trade, should certain practices be considered a threat to national security.
Imports threaten to impair our national security,” US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters upon the statement, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The report suggested three options — a global tariff on steel of 24 percent, a tariff of 53 percent or more on a dozen specified countries including South Korea, or a quota limiting individual countries’ steel imports to 63 percent of their exports in the previous year.
Weighing the most pressure upon South Korean steelmakers was the second scenario, especially as its conditions are largely stacked against China and countries that import Chinese steel.
Observers especially pointed out that several of the top 20 steel exporters to the US such as Canada, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, Mexico and Russia were excluded from the extra tariff list, without explicit reason.
According to the Department of Commerce data, South Korea stood third in amount of steel exports to the US, accounting for 10.2 percent as of the end of October last year.