Finance minister urges cautious approach on S. Korea’s WTO status

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Sept 20, 2019 - 15:49
  • Updated : Sept 20, 2019 - 15:49

With US President Donald Trump casting doubt on the way the World Trade Organization categorizes global economies, South Korea’s finance minister said Friday that the government would take a cautious approach toward its developing-country status and the trade benefits that come along with it.

“The other developing economies that are members of the WTO have been raising issues with the benefits that our nation receives through the developing country status, which is why now is the time to consider whether we can maintain the status and benefits,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Hong Nam-ki said at a meeting at the Seoul Government Complex. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Hong Nam-ki attends a meeting at the Seoul Government Complex on Friday. (Yonhap)

“We need to take a cautious approach towards the issue as it could directly impact the nation’s agriculture industry,” he added.

Hong also vowed to respond to the issue based on what the government believes is best for the nation, after considering the economy’s current status and the surrounding circumstances.

Korea has been cautious on its WTO status since July, when Trump accused the Geneva-based global body of handing special treatment to “the world’s richest countries (claiming) to be developing countries,” via Twitter.

While his beef is mainly with China -- with which the US is engaged in an intense trade war -- Trump has also named Korea among the nations that maintain developing country status despite G-20 and OECD membership, which often indicates economic wealth.

He also set a time limit in July, saying Washington would stop categorizing such nations as developing countries if “substantial progress” were not made within 90 days.

On rice tariffs -- Korea’s main concern in maintaining developing country status -- Hong said the government’s multilateral negotiations with five nations had reached the final stage and that the country would maintain its 513 percent tariff on imported rice. The other countries engaged in the negotiations are the US, China, Australia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Korea currently imposes a 513-percent tariff on rice imported from those nations if it exceeds the annual quota of 409,000 tons.

By Jung Min-kyung (