Proving a strong allianceU.S. President Donald Trump signed off an executive order to invoke the Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act to levy 25 percent and 10 percent respective tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The new duties will come in force 15 days after the presidential order. The Hyundai Research Institute estimated that the new levies will hurt 7.23 trillion won ($6.8 billion) in steel output and 14,400 jobs in Korea over the next three years. If the European Union and China retaliate and the U.S. counteracts, global commerce may shrivel and deal a heavy blow to export-reliant Korea.
But, we must not give up. Citing it as its traditional ally, the U.S. excused Australia from the list after dropping Canada and Mexico because they are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. It has made Australia an exception as Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act that enables steep tariffs to protect national security also can exclude countries that are helpful to the U.S. on security. Chung Eui-yong, head of the National Security Office while in Washington to brief on his visit to Pyongyang, also pleaded for an exception on Korean imports.
Korean steel exports are substantially larger than Australia’s. Korean products take up a third of U.S. steel imports. But the government must do its best to exempt Korea before the executive order goes into effect on March 23. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a recent interview that more countries may be exempted from the tariffs. South Korea should be one of them. It is one of the United States’ strongest security allies and a champion of free trade. Moreover, the two nations must not let any difference get in the way ahead of the historical inter-Korean and Pyongyang-Washington summit meetings. The two nations must demonstrate that their alliance is stronger than ever.
JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 12, Page 34