South Korea Challenges US Report on Trade Barriers

SOUTH KOREA has dismissed allegations by the United States of unfair trading practices as ``incorrect'' and warned that trade ties would be seriously harmed if Washington put Seoul on a sanctions hit list. Trade Minister Han Seung-soo told reporters the annual US review of foreign trade obstacles released last week lacked objectivity and failed to take into account fully Seoul's recent steps to open its markets.

The US report, which identified countries that could find themselves targeted for US trade sanctions later this month, named South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Brazil.

``Considerable portions [of the report] are incorrect,'' Han said. ``Some statements are different from fact and others cite figures whose bases are not clear.''

Han suggested South Korea could retaliate through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, a pact which seeks to regulate world trade, if the US imposed sanctions.

A new US trade law provides for two-way talks with countries accused of unfair trade practices, followed by sanctions if the talks fail.

South Korea and the United States failed to narrow their differences in two rounds of trade talks in Washington last month. But Trade Ministry officials here said Seoul was prepared to make concessions in new talks in Washington from May 11 by easing controls on foreign investment.

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