New trade minister asks for trade incentives in U.S.

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New trade minister asks for trade incentives in U.S.

Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo, who started office last month, briefs media on his recent visit to the U.S. in meeting with White House officials and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy's office in Sejong on Wednesday. [MOTIE]

Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo, who started office last month, briefs media on his recent visit to the U.S. in meeting with White House officials and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy's office in Sejong on Wednesday. [MOTIE]

 New Korean Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo said he asked Washington to offer the same investment incentives to Korean companies that it offers its own.  
 
“The U.S. congress is still discussing and yet to confirm an incentive system for key industries such as semiconductors,” Yeo said at a press conference Wednesday following a trip to the U.S. "[However], I argued the need to apply the same incentives to major investments in core industries by Korean companies as they do American companies when meeting with White House officials, U.S. Trade Representative [Katherine Tai] as well as 14 to 15 congressmen.
 
“We plan to closely follow events until the U.S. makes a decision on its policy direction,” Yeo said.  
 
Yeo, who took the trade minister job last month, visited Washington between Sept. 13 and 17.  
 
Yeo said the Korean government was well aware of concerns by Korean companies including Samsung Electronics and SK hynix of pressure from the U.S. government on semiconductor companies to disclose sensitive information including inventories, orders and sales data.  
 
During a semiconductor summit on Sept. 23, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told global semiconductor companies to disclose more information on their supply chains to solve a shortage of chips for automobiles.  
 
Raimondo told Reuters that if companies don't comply, the U.S. government have "other tools" to require them to give the data.
 
“However, the U.S. government has expressed that it is voluntary [and not mandatory],” Yeo said. “What we know is that our [Korean] companies are internally reviewing the situation.”  
 
Yeo stressed that there was recognition in the U.S. of Korea’s potential as a major biopharmaceutical producer.
 
“Foreign companies gave high marks to Korea’s potential in the vaccine business and the White House expressed expectations for [the Korean] government’s K-vaccine hub strategy,” Yeo said.  
 
During President Moon Jae-in’s visit to the U.S. last week, U.S. vaccine material producer Cytiva announced an investment of $52.5 million in Korea over two years starting in 2022.  
 
It was the first instance of a global vaccine materials producer committing to investing in a new manufacturing facility in Korea since the outbreak of Covid-19.
 
Yeo said the government has recently applied to join the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), a multilateral pact that covers digital trade issues such as digital payments, cross-border information exchanges and data protection.  
 
The DEPA currently has only three members: Singapore, New Zealand and Chile.  
 
“Digital trade is an important area for future trade,” Yeo said. “As a traditional IT power country, we are hoping to actively lead [in that area].”  
 
Yeo said the EU has proposed signing a digital partnership with Japan and Singapore as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy.  
 
Yeo said he will be meeting with EU trade officials to talk more about the digital trade partnership on a visit to EU headquarters in Brussels next week. 
 

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]
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