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Industry minister visiting car plants amid U.S. auto probe

All News 16:56 July 10, 2018

SEOUL, July 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's industry minister is visiting local plants of major automakers to collect their views on Washington's ongoing probe into imported autos and discuss ways to overcome new challenges in the critically important market, his office said Tuesday.

Paik Un-gyu, minister of trade, industry and energy, visited Renault Samsung Motors Corp.'s factory in the southeastern port city of Busan to discuss its export strategy in the U.S. market and its production plan for electric vehicles.

On Wednesday, Paik will head to Hyundai Motor Co.'s factory in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and visit the Korean unit of General Motors Co. (GM) in Bupyeong, west of Seoul, to assess its restructuring efforts.

In May, GM and the Seoul government agreed to a US$7 billion bailout for the Korean unit after shutting down one of its underutilized plants as part of the global restructuring plan.

Paik Un-gyu (R), minister of trade, industry and energy, speaks during a meeting with company officials from Renault Samsung Motor Corp.'s parts suppliers in the southeastern port city of Busan on July 10, 2018. (Yonhap)

His rare visit to the big three industry players comes as the Seoul government is set to send a delegation to a public hearing on U.S. auto imports slated for July 19-20 in Washington.

During meetings with the automakers, the policymaker will share the latest developments in the U.S. government's auto probe and explore ways to cope with such developments, the ministry said.

Officials and South Korean automakers have expressed concerns that the Donald Trump administration's move to impose 25 percent tariffs on foreign vehicles could add uncertainty to the market in the short term.

While Korean-made autos are exempt from U.S. duties under the bilateral trade pact implemented in 2012, market watchers say new tariffs imposed under Section 232 could deal a heavy blow to local manufacturers and parts makers.

Out of 2.53 million Korean vehicles sold abroad last year, about 33 percent were shipped to the large North American country, according to data compiled by the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association. South Korea exported 178,980 vehicles to the key market in the first quarter of 2018, down 22 percent from a year earlier.


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