Trump: I'll punish South Korea because of North
“I may hold it up until after a deal is made with North Korea. You know why? Because it’s a very strong card,” said Trump in a speech in Cleveland scheduled to push his infrastructure upgrade plan.
On Tuesday, the U.S. announced that it has reached a preliminary trade agreement with South Korea which would give Seoul a permanent exemption on heavy steel and aluminum tariffs in exchange for trade concessions.
According to U.S. authorities, South Korea could avoid being subject to the 25 percent tariff Trump has imposed on steel imports for 70 percent of its annual average steel exports to the US, calculating the figure by averaging exports for the years from 2015-2017.
However, Washington would maintain the 10 percent tariffs on imports of South Korean aluminum.
Last week, the Trump administration announced that it would exempt the European Union, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and South Korea from the steel and aluminum tariffs while it negotiates bilateral agreements with each of those countries.
If Trump does not change his mind, the agreement with South Korea will enter into force on May 1, according to the Foreign Trade Office.
The U.S. currently maintains a $18 billion annual merchandise trade deficit with Seoul, which Trump wants to reduce.
Negotiations with Seoul, in any case, have been affected by the serious crisis between Washington and North Korea due to the nuclear weapons program pursued by the regime of Kim Jong-un.
But the possibility of talks between Pyongyang and Washington appears closer, especially after Kim visited Beijing earlier this week, where – according to Chinese officials – he met with President Xi Jinping.
Kim’s visit to China, which is apparently the first foreign visit by the North Korean leader since he assumed power in 2011, came at a critical moment, just weeks before his scheduled meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the prospective summit with Trump, tentatively scheduled for May. ■