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(LEAD) Taking China to WTO is one option being considered: trade minister

2017/09/13 15:16

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(ATTN: ADDS more background in last 2 paras; CORRECTS typo in 3rd para)

SEJONG, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's trade minister said Wednesday that taking China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is one option being considered in response to that country's apparent retaliatory actions against Seoul's decision to deploy a U.S. missile shield.

The Beijing government slammed the deployment of the defense system, called THAAD, on South Korean soil, claiming that the system will threaten its national security.

It also seemed to have banned Chinese travel agencies from selling group tours to South Korea and intensified pressure on Korean companies doing business on Chinese soil.

Recently there have been hints that the Seoul government is considering asking for arbitration by the global trading body for causing substantial damages to South Korean businesses.

"I'm considering it as an option. But they will no longer work as bargaining chips when you lay the cards on your table," Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong said in a press briefing in Sejong. "We have to prepare everything from the beginning to the end if we take action."

   He said it is necessary for South Korean companies to become more competitive and capable of overcoming China's trade barriers and to adapt themselves to the world's second-largest economy, which is still developing at a fast pace.

To deal with another trade issue with the United States, South Korea's top negotiator said he is looking into every scenario that the U.S. side can come up with.

In last month's meeting to discuss a possible amendment to the Seoul-Washington free trade agreement (FTA), South Korea called for a joint study of the agreement's impact on the two economies.

U.S. President Donald Trump has blamed the pact for bringing in the massive trade deficit with South Korea and even mentioned a possible withdrawal of the FTA, which came into effect in 2012.

"We are waiting for an answer from the U.S. side," said Kim. "After understanding their needs, we will go to the negotiation table."

   The trade volume between the two countries increased to US$109.6 billion in 2016 from $100.8 billion in 2011, with South Korea's trade surplus reaching some $27 billion last year, up from $11.6 billion tallied five years earlier.

Partly in line with the FTA issues, South Korea has been making efforts to reduce its trade surplus with the U.S. by increasing imports from the world's biggest economy.

The size of the surplus has been on a steady decline since last year, as the cumulative excess in goods traded decreased 31.5 percent on-year in the first eight months of 2017.