Japan to Restore S. Korea’s Preferred Trade Status

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Tokyo, April 28 (Jiji Press)—The Japanese trade ministry said Friday it started procedures to put South Korea back on Tokyo’s list of countries to which it gives preferential trade treatment.

The move would fully lift strict export controls Japan imposed in trade with the neighboring country more than three years ago amid strained bilateral ties over the issue of wartime labor.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will place South Korea again in Group A of countries given a general bulk export license, formerly known as “white” nations, after confirming that the country has export controls “as effective as those of Japan” in place over goods and technologies that could be converted to military use, METI officials said.

The Group A status is given to nations recognized as managing exports appropriately to avoid the proliferation of goods capable of being used for weapons of mass destruction.

Japan deprived South Korea of the preferential treatment in August 2019.

Late last month, the ministry eased restrictions it imposed in July 2019 on exports of semiconductor materials, including hydrogen fluoride, to the neighbor. Seoul, for its part, restored Japan to its list of countries eligible for preferential trade treatment on Monday.

On Friday, the ministry started procedures to seek opinions on revising related ordinances for South Korea’s Group A comeback, which will be decided by the cabinet after the public comment period ends on May 31.

Given South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s push to improve the bilateral relationship, senior Japanese and South Korean trade officials have held intensive talks.

Tokyo made on-site inspections of how exported goods are being handled in South Korea and confirmed that there is no risk of the goods being exported indirectly to North Korea, METI officials said.