United States exempts S. Korea from steel tariffs, revises free trade deal

Have Reached Agreement In Principle On Free Trade Steel Tariff With US South Korea Minister

Notably, the proposed changes to the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) will grant South Korea an indefinite exemption from President Trump's recently announced steel and aluminium tariffs.

But Korean negotiators defended against demands for higher content requirement of US auto parts, also a contentious issue in the ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement, as local manufacturers have raised concerns over its direct impact on their supply chain.

The agreement reached yesterday means South Korea will be forced to cut its steel exports to the United States by 30 per cent of the past three years' average, in exchange for becoming the first U.S. ally to receive an indefinite exemption on steel tariffs.

Seoul has agreed to cut steel exports to the USA by 30 percent and accepted extended tariffs on South Korean pick-up trucks to secure a revised trade deal with the United States and escape Washington's steel duties, the government admitted Monday.

Kim said South Korea also won an exemption from increased import tariffs on steel products.

To avoid the steel tariff, South Korea would limit United States shipments of the metal to about 2.7 million tons a year, the ministry said.

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No South Korean automakers now export pickup trucks to the United States but Hyundai Motor said previous year it planned to launch a model there to catch up with a shift away from sedans.

The announcement comes amid Seoul and Washington are focusing on their summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the late April and May, respectively. "So I think this is an absolute win-win", Mnuchin said on Fox News.

Once the details of the arrangement is settled, South Korea would get permanent exemption from USA tariffs on steel.

South Korea's trade minister Kim Hyon-chong speaks during a briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul. 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.

Under the revised agreement, USA automakers will be allowed to export 50,000 vehicles a year to South Korea, double the existing quota.

Seoul and Washington began renegotiations on their free trade pact from January as U.S. President Donald Trump called it a "horrible" deal.

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After Trump's remarks, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he hoped a final agreement with Seoul would be announced next week.

The U.S.is South Korea's second-largest trading partner after China, with bilateral trade reaching $119.3 billion in 2017, according to government data.

In exchange for the exemption, South Korea will open its markets to US -manufactured autos, expanding the number of cars it imports per manufacturer to 50,000, from 25,000.

"I don't see a high chance of automakers expanding USA imports", he said. Cars account for more than 70 percent of the surplus.

"Where we've put a pause on tariffs, we're negotiating", he said.

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