SEOUL – South Korea’s Commerce Minister Paik Un-gyu said on Monday that South Korea may be able to negotiate an exemption from the United States on its steel products.
Seoul and Washington have been engaged in an intense round of negotiations during the last week after the US approved a 25 percent tariff on steel imports earlier this month.
“I think there will be a good result within this week if we wait for the results (of negotiations),” Paik said in a working group meeting with members of his ministry, Yonhap news agency reported.
However, the minister warned about the need for caution regarding the US’ final decision.
“Although the US views (South Korea) as an ally, there are concerns over the global oversupply of steel and we are working hard on that part,” he said.
South Korean trade minister Kim Hyun-chong has been in Washington for the past week, holding meetings on the matter with the US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other officials.
Also accompanying Kim is Yoo Myung-hee, who led the negotiations to review the free trade agreement between both countries and has extended her stay in the capital to assist Kim.
South Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon and his American counterpart, Steven Mnuchin, are also scheduled to meet on Monday on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires to discuss the matter.
In a telephone conversation on Friday on upcoming summits with North Korea, the presidents of South Korea and the US, Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump respectively, also touched upon the topic of the tariffs.
Moon assured Trump that an exemption from the US’ planned tariff on steel products would be a reflection of the strength of the alliance between both countries at a crucial time for both to resolve the North Korean issue.
South Korea is the third largest exporter of steel to the United States, after Canada and Brazil, and in 2017 it sent 3.6 million tons to the country.