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U.S. Auto Tariffs Would Deliver a Particularly Painful Sting to South Korea

Oct 8, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
A worker assembles a vehicle in a Hyundai plant in China's Hebei province. South Korean automakers have increased their manufacturing capacity in China to  A significant proportion of South Korea's auto manufacturing capacity in China to 2.1 million vehicles annually.

This photo taken on February 21, 2017 shows a worker in a Hyundai factory in Cangzhou, in China's northern Hebei province. The factory is the South Korean manufacturer's fourth in China and has an annual capacity of 300,000 cars. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite bending to U.S. pressure and agreeing both to revise the countries' free trade agreement and to accept export quotas on steel and aluminum, South Korea could still face tariffs on its vehicle exports to the United States. The government in Seoul is seeking ways to avoid the damage that tariffs could inflict on its auto manufacturing sector. But as U.S. President Donald Trump concentrates on strengthening U.S. manufacturing and rebalancing its trade relationships, the $22.6 billion trade deficit in goods between the two countries looms large. Although that deficit represents only a third of that between Japan and the United States and a small fraction of its $375 billion deficit with China, the South Korean trade imbalance has come under particular fire because of the role of automotive exports, which account for about 94 percent of that deficit....

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