April 6, 2018 / 7:05 AM / 18 days ago

South Korea notifies WTO of plans to suspend tariff concessions on U.S. goods

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea said on Friday it has notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it seeks to suspend tariff concessions on imported U.S. goods worth $480 million (£343 million), in response to U.S. measures against South Korean imports.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard Air Force One after visiting White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, U.S., April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Donald Trump slapped a steep tariff on imported washing machines and solar panels in February to protect American manufacturers, prompting a fierce backlash from South Korea and China.

South Korea’s trade ministry said in a statement that it has informed the WTO Council for Trade in Goods that its plan to suspend tariff concessions on imported U.S. goods, which are equal in value to the South Korean washing machines and solar panels affected by U.S. tariffs.

The trade ministry said it plans to produce details on which U.S. products will be subject to the suspension closer to when it takes effect. Under the WTO framework, a country’s right of suspension on concessions of a trading partner cannot be exercised for up to three years from when the trading partner’s safeguards take effect.

U.S. President Trump has stepped up trade protectionist actions by raising tariffs to guard U.S. manufacturing. Amid escalating fears of a trade war, Trump said on Thursday he had ordered an additional $100 billion new tariffs on China.

He has also taken issue with U.S. trade imbalances with South Korea. In March, the two countries agreed to revise an existing bilateral trade agreement in principle, with Seoul giving more market access to U.S. autos, while Korean steelmakers avoided hefty steel tariffs.

Reporting By Jane Chung and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Sam Holmes

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