South Korea seeks talks with US to withdraw levies

SEOUL • South Korea's government has asked the United States to hold bilateral talks as early as next week on tariffs Washington has imposed on imports of washing machines and solar panels, South Korea's Trade Ministry said yesterday.

South Korea and China have condemned the steep tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, with Seoul saying on Tuesday that it will complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over the move it calls excessive.

South Korea will ask the US to "ease and withdraw" the measures, and will exercise rights under the WTO, the Trade Ministry said in a statement.

Washington is set to impose a 20 per cent tariff on the first 1.2 million imported large residential washers in the first year, and a 50 per cent tariff on additional imports. The tariffs fall to 16 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, in the third year.

A 30 per cent tariff will be imposed on imported solar cells and modules in the first year, declining to 15 per cent by the fourth year. The measure allows 2.5 gigawatts of unassembled solar cells to be imported tariff-free each year.

The tariffs on washing machines will deal a heavy blow to South Korea's Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics.

Together, both companies ship between 2.5 million and three million washing machines annually to the US, with sales of around US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion), and they hold a quarter of a US market dominated by Whirlpool and General Electric.

"It is clear that the latest safeguard measures would violate the WTO rules," South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun Chong had said earlier.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'South Korea seeks talks with US to withdraw levies'. Print Edition | Subscribe