Yoo will trim U.S. trade surplus

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Yoo will trim U.S. trade surplus

The country’s finance minister brushed off concerns that the United States would label Korea as a currency manipulator and said he would do his best to avoid the designation by importing more goods, including shale gas, from the United States.

“Based on the current standards that they review, I don’t think the United States will designate Korea as a currency manipulator,” Minister Yoo Il-ho said at the Sejong Government Complex late Thursday in a press briefing to lay out plans for the new year, “but I will explain to them thoroughly since no one can be sure of what can happen in international trade relationships.”

Yoo said he aims to reduce Korea’s trade surplus with the United States by importing more goods, especially shale gas. “There is a boom in the United States’ energy sector, and the Korean government is going to buy shale gas from them,” Yoo said.

The finance minister plans to visit the United States next week and hold a seminar to explain Korea’s current economic issues. He plans to tell foreign investors that the country’s ongoing political issues will have limited impacts on the nation’s economy.

“The National Assembly passed the 2017 budget on time last year, even as they were discussing the impeachment [of President Park Geun-hye],” Yoo said. “I think that clearly shows the ruling and opposition parties believe they at least need to cooperate when it comes to economic issues.”

Despite having just passed the year’s budget last month, the country’s ruling party, the Saenuri Party, is already pressing the ministry to create a supplementary budget as early as next month, a point on which Yoo disagrees. “I think February is just too early,” he said, adding that the ministry needs to first look at economic data and indicators in the first quarter of this year before making a decision.

Other concerns that Yoo addressed on Thursday included the Chinese government’s restrictions on Korean companies doing business in China, which are rumored to be a retaliation against the Korean government’s decision to deploy a controversial American missile defense system in Korea.

It’s been one year since Yoo took the hot seat as the country’s top financial policy maker, and many economic indicators still remain weak. “I wish [annual GDP] growth was as high as 3.3 percent,” he said. “I feel saddened that it was even lower than we expected.”

“But I think I have worked hard on managing risks coming from within the country and abroad,” he added, “while expediting ongoing corporate restructuring in some of the country’s industries.”

BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]
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