The South Korean government is planning to levy import duties equivalent to approximately two trillion won (US$1.8 billion) in retaliation for the U.S. safeguard measures against South Korean washing machines and solar panels. This is because washing machine and solar panel exports to the United States, which amounted to about US$1.155 billion each for the first 11 months of last year, can be significantly affected and South Korean steel, automobile and semiconductor products can also be affected by similar import restrictions down the road.
In the same context, the government requested a suspension of concession in the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the WTO on January 22 so that losses attributable to the anti-dumping tariffs on the washing machines can be offset. “The South Korean government skipped WTO arbitration in making the request unlike in most cases, and this implies a significant change in stance,” said professor Ahn Deok-keun at the Graduate School of International Studies of Seoul National University.
The targets of the South Korean government’s retaliatory tariffs are likely to include agricultural products, which are regarded as the weakest point of the U.S. It is also expected that the government will bring disputes in the steel industry to the WTO. The U.S. Department of Commerce has repeatedly imposed tariffs on South Korean steel products since 2016, taking advantage of Adverse Facts Available (AFA) and Particular Market Situation (PMS).
The South Korean government recently said that it has looked into the AFA provision for long and can make a final decision on the issue sooner or later. In addition, the government is going to work more closely with countries like Australia, Singapore, Mexico and Chile in order to deal with the protectionist policy of trade giants such as the U.S.