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Trump suggests excluding S. Korea's special status at WTO

Trump suggests excluding S. Korea's special status at WTO

Posted July. 29, 2019 08:02,   

Updated July. 29, 2019 08:02


U.S. President Donald Trump said relatively developed countries should not benefit from developing country status under the World Trade Organization, and singled out South Korea as an example. If South Korea loses the WTO developing country status, the country is feared to embrace the biggest damage in its agricultural field.

“The WTO is BROKEN when the world's RICHEST countries claim to be developing countries to avoid WTO rules and get special treatment," President Trump tweeted on Friday.

In a document ordering the Office of the United States Trade Representative to reform the WTO rules on developing country status on the day, Trump said, “If the U.S. decides the WTO has not made substantial progress after 90 days, it will unilaterally stop treating those nations that improperly declared themselves as developing countries.” Citing China as the most extreme case in the document, President Trump said, “Even countries which are members of the Group of 20 major economies and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, including Mexico, South Korea and Turkey, claim developing country status.”

Under the current WTO rules, if countries are deemed as developing countries under the WTO regime, they can receive special treatment in tariffs and subsidies and thus protect their industries. South Korea was almost categorized into a developing country by the WTO in 1996 when it joined the OCED, but has been maintaining developing country status to prevent potential impact on its agriculture sector. If South Korea is excluded from the WTO’s “developing countries” label, tariffs on key agricultural produce including rice, red pepper and garlic, for which high import tariffs are currently levied, will be significantly reduced.

“Since trade negotiations in the agriculture sector are currently suspended at the WTO, it would not be easy to start new discussions about the change of developing country status,” the South Korean Food, Agriculture and Forestry Ministry said. “We will keep an eye on the situation and appropriately react.”

Hye-Ryung Choi herstory@donga.com · Yong Park parky@donga.com