By Ko Jae-man
South Korean government officially complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about China’s economic retaliatory actions over the plan of deploying a U.S. antimissile system for deterrence against North Korean nuclear missile threat, a senior government official told the legislative on Monday.
Speaking to a hearing of the National Assembly’s Trade, Industry and Energy Committee, Joo Hyung-hwan, minister of Korea’s Trade, Industry and Energy, said South Korea formerly raised the issue to the WTO Council on Trade in Services on March 17.
“China would likely strongly deny, but we will argue on the relevance,” Joo said.
The Seoul government will continue to gather evidence to save Korean enterprises from “unreasonably unfair” treatment, he said.
The Chinese government has taken a broad range of actions to impair South Korean interests after the U.S. and Korean military acted out their plan to install a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in Korea on a plot of land owned by Lotte Group. Since then, it has prevented Chinese nationals from visiting South Korea and Korean-made products from entering its ports. It shut down Lotte retail outlets citing safety regulations, and state media outlets have been encouraging consumer boycott on Lotte brands and other Korean brands.
These actions are clear violation of WTO’s ground rules on the most-favored-nation (MFN) treatment and national treatment principles. The MFN treatment is a WTO manifesto pledging not to discriminate trading partners, and the national treatment rule obliges member states to treat foreigners and locals equally.
The ministry confirmed that the government accused Beijing of breaching the MFN and national treatment regulations, more as to bring international spotlight to Chinese action as it won’t be easy to file legal charges against China. Backing up the charges would be hard as the Chinese actions were made on verbal orders and domestic regulations.
“We cannot expect WTO to immediately look into the case,” said one official.