South Korea seeks trade sanctions on U.S. as disputes pile up

A Samsung front-loading washing machine with an AddWash feature is shown at the Samsung Electronics booth during the 2016 CES trade show in Las Vegas
A Samsung front-loading washing machine with an AddWash feature is shown at the Samsung Electronics booth during the 2016 CES trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada January 7, 2016. The door-in-door feature allows the user to add a piece of laundry to the wash after the wash cycle has started. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

January 12, 2018

By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) – South Korea has asked the World Trade Organization for authorization to impose annual trade sanctions worth at least $711 million on the United States, a filing published by the World Trade Organization showed on Friday.

As well as those sanctions, arising from a dispute over trade in washing machines, Seoul also asked for permission to impose an open-ended amount of trade sanctions if Washington broke the same rules again with regard to other products.

The demand adds to a growing list of reproaches of U.S. trade policy, especially the punitive duties with which it often targets allegedly unfair trade.

In the past week alone, the WTO has published a broad Canadian complaint about the U.S. trade rulebook and a WTO filing on Friday showed Vietnam has complained about U.S. tariffs on fish.

India has also re-opened a U.S. dispute, alleging Washington has failed to comply with a ruling on solar power.

Trade tension is rising because of U.S. demands to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and virtual paralysis in the WTO dispute system, caused by a U.S. veto on new judges at what is effectively the world trade supreme court.

South Korea said it was demanding compensation because the United States had failed to meet a Dec. 26 deadline to comply with a ruling against duties of up to 82 percent it had imposed on appliances made by Samsung Electronics Co <005930.KS>, LG Electronics Inc <066570.KS> and Daewoo Electronics Co.

Earlier on Friday, the United States and South Korea formally accepted a WTO ruling in a separate dispute over U.S. duties on South Korean steel pipe used in oil drilling, according to transcripts of statements at the WTO’s dispute settlement meeting.

South Korea’s representative expressed disappointment that the ruling had not recognized “the magnitude of U.S. political pressure” – including letters from over 50 senators and 150 members of the House of Representatives – that prompted the U.S. Department of Commerce to drastically beef up its claim against South Korea.

South Korea’s Trade Ministry is also considering filing a WTO complaint over U.S. restrictions on solar panel imports, it said in November.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Larry King)