SEJONG, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's government vowed Friday to thoroughly prepare for the possibility of U.S. tariffs on foreign automobiles.
Lee Ho-seung, the first vice minister of economy and finance, made the comments in a meeting with officials on innovation-led growth in Seoul, but he did not elaborate on what that might mean.
His remarks came as Washington is set to issue a report on its ongoing probe into foreign automobiles by Feb. 17.
South Korea is worried about potential U.S. tariffs on South Korean automobiles on national security grounds based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act.
South Korea exported 720,000 vehicles to the U.S. in 2017, compared with 1.96 million vehicles shipped there by Japan and 710,000 units from Germany, according data compiled by the Institute for International Trade.
South Korea has made concessions on automobiles in the revised bilateral free trade deal that went into effect earlier this month, but U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to invoke "Section 232" tariffs on foreign vehicles on national security grounds.
Earlier this month, Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, met with U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris and called for an exemption from U.S. tariffs for South Korean automobiles.
In December, Hong made a similar request to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a phone conversation.
Wendy Cutler, a former U.S. official who negotiated the original free trade deal with South Korea in 2007, has said that it is inconceivable that Trump will rule against South Korea, as Seoul has made concessions in the free trade pact and is a strong ally of Washington.
The U.S. has conducted 16 investigations, mostly into oil imports, under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act since 1962. Most of the probes determined that the imports posed little threat.