Japan to be Removed from South Korea’s Preferred Trade List

12 August 2019

South Korea announced this week that it has decided to remove Japan from a list of nations receiving preferential treatment in trade, with many seeing the move as a countermeasure to Tokyo’s recent decision to downgrade Seoul’s trade status amid a diplomatic row.

It hasn’t been made immediately clear how South Korea’s tightened export controls will impact bilateral trade. Seoul said South Korean companies exporting to Japan will be able to receive exceptions from case-by-case inspections that are normally applied to exports to nations with lower trade status and go through a faster approval process they currently enjoy.

South Korea’s Trade Minister, Sung Yun-mo said the government decided to remove Japan from the country’s 29-country “white list” because it has failed to uphold international principles while managing its export controls on sensitive materials.

Neither Sung nor any other South Korean officials specified what they saw as the problem with Japan’s export controls. They simply said that Seoul will work to minimise the negative impact on South Korean exporters and bilateral trade.

Sung said the changes are expected to come into effect sometime next month, following a 20-day period allowed for the gathering of public opinion on the issue and further regulatory and legislative reviews. He said Seoul is willing to accept any request by Tokyo for consultation over the issue during the opinion-gathering period.

South Korea’s announcement came weeks after Japan’s cabinet approved the removal of South Korea from a list of countries with preferential trade status. Seoul had vowed retaliation while accusing Tokyo of weaponising trade to retaliate over political rows stemming from their wartime history.

Japan’s move came weeks after it imposed stricter controls on certain technology exports to South Korean companies that rely on Japanese materials to produce semiconductors and displays for TVs and smartphones, which are key South Korean export items.

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