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Posted : 2017-09-13 17:05
Updated : 2017-09-13 17:21

'Taking China to WTO is one option'

By Yoon Ja-young

Taking China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for its economic retaliation against Korea is one of the options the government is considering, but the next move must be first planned in detail, the trade minister said Wednesday.

"We've always had it as an option. However, we need thorough analysis to determine which option is more effective," said Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong in a press briefing.

"The card loses bargaining power once it is laid on the table. Even if we win the case at the WTO, there should be a plan B and C prepared."

Following Korea's deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system here for protection against North Korea's intensifying threats, China has been conducting economic retaliation against Korean businesses.

The trade ministry has been considering taking the case to the WTO, after consulting with a number of law firms on whether it will win based on the fact that the economic retaliation violates the WTO's most-favored nation terms.

Regarding the United States' demand to renegotiate the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), Kim reaffirmed there should be analysis and assessment on its effects first. U.S. President Donald Trump has been attacking the bilateral pact along with other free trade agreements as a "job killer," and demanded they be renegotiated to decrease the U.S. trade deficit.

He recently even mentioned withdrawing from the KORUS FTA, but the comment lost ground due to opposition in the United States.

"Korea's exports to the United States have decreased by 30 percent this year. When considering this, and since we also have our own needs with the FTA, there should be joint analysis and assessment first regarding what actually caused the U.S. trade deficit," Kim said.

The trade minister also said despite the THAAD conflict, Korea needs close trade cooperation with China and Russia.

"Historically, the Korean Peninsula was at the crossroads of continental and maritime powers," he said, adding that balancing between these has been crucial for Korea.

He said Seoul has been closely working with the maritime power in trade, implying Washington. This has been successful, but he emphasized that continental power is also crucial.

"Koreans have been next to China for 5,000 years. We should consider how to relate with the continental power," he said.

The trade minister called for diverse measures to improve the Korea-China FTA. He cited the FTA between free economic zones of the two countries such as Incheon and Shanghai as an example.

He said the recent tension could be an opportunity for Korean firms to get stronger, similar to the effect the China-Japan conflict over Senkaku Islands had on Japanese firms.

Kim said he believes an FTA with Russia would also provide mutual benefits.

"For instance, Russia's major companies may join with Korea's shipbuilders to jointly develop an Arctic route," the minister said.

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