Trade barriers

Government authorities

What government office handles complaints from domestic exporters against foreign trade barriers at the WTO or under other agreements?

The KTC and the Trade Dispute Settlement Division of MOTIE (www.motie.go.kr) are primarily responsible for receiving grievances from domestic exporters and interested parties and handling complaints against foreign trade barriers on both substantial and procedural matters, although other relevant ministries or government agencies may also be involved with regard to substantial matters of the complaints. For instance, in the case of agricultural products, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, and in the case of standards, the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards, is involved in the complaint procedure.

Complaint filing procedure

What is the procedure for filing a complaint against a foreign trade barrier?

Under article 25-2 of the Act on the Investigation of Unfair International Trade Practices and Remedy against Injury of Industry (the Act), the KTC may conduct an investigation on whether the domestic industry producing the specific goods or services suffers, or is feared to suffer, any injury due to the systems and practices of the trade counterparts that violate international trade norms such as WTO Agreements. According to article 25 of the Decree of the Act, the procedures are followed as below.

First, a person who intends to file an application for an investigation into injury by foreign trade barriers shall submit to the KTC an application, accompanied by the materials verifying the details.

Second, where the KTC is applied to for an investigation into injury, it shall decide whether to commence the investigation into injury within 60 days from the date of receipt of the application and the KTC has decided whether to commence the investigation into injury, it shall notify the applicant of the details, and it shall notify the government of the trading partner country of the details only if it has decided to investigate into injury and publish such fact in the Official Gazette.

Third, the KTC shall judge whether the domestic industry producing goods or services suffers any injury or threat thereof, due to the system and practices of the trading partner country within one year from the date of decision to commence the investigation into injury. When the KTC has judged as a result of investigation that the domestic industry suffers or has concerns over suffering injury, it may recommend the head of related central administrative agency to implement the measures necessary for corrections of the details of violations of the international trade norms by the trade counterparts. Necessary measures pursuant to article 25-3 of the Act means the following:

  • the execution of bilateral consultation with the trading partner country;
  • the execution of improvement procedures for the system and practices of the trading partner country through the World Trade Organization etc; and
  • the execution of measures necessary for the correction of violation of international trade norms by the trading partner country.

Since the above investigation procedure was established in 2004, no single investigation into foreign trade barriers has yet been initiated.

Meanwhile, a complaint to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body or other forum may be processed through the following procedure. First, stakeholders or associations of those who are injured or to be injured by trade barriers etc request the filing of a complaint to MOTIE. Even if there is no such action, the government can ex officio consider whether to file a complaint. Upon receipt of the request to file a complaint, the Trade Dispute Settlement Division of MOTIE will examine the need for the complaint and the chance of winning the case, together with the relevant departments, and report to a superior authority. If the opinion is made regarding the complaint through internal approval by MOTIE, the government’s official position on the complaint will be decided at the Ministerial Meeting on International Economic Affairs presided over by the Minister of Strategy and Finance and Deputy Prime Minister of Economy. If the decision is made at the Ministerial Meeting on International Economic Affairs, a request for a consultation, commencing the dispute settlement procedure, will be made to the WTO through the diplomatic missions abroad, including the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea in Geneva.

Grounds for investigation

What will the authority consider when deciding whether to begin an investigation?

Standards for such investigation are not expressly stipulated and are left to the discretion of the authorities. In general, the authorities first examine the need to initiate the investigation from a legal point of view and examine the implications of the investigation for diplomatic and economic relations with the country concerned.

Measures against foreign trade barriers

What measures outside the WTO may the authority unilaterally take against a foreign trade barrier? Are any such measures currently in force?

Korea does not take unilateral trade measures against foreign trade barriers that surpass the WTO framework, nor would specific statutory guidelines exist to allow unilateral actions outside of the WTO.

Private-sector support

What support does the government expect from the private sector to bring a WTO case?

Based on past cases where Korea was involved as a petitioner or defendant, the Korean government has been provided from the private sector involved in the WTO proceedings with some financial support in terms of legal fees and translation costs. It appears that the Korean government needs the support of the private sector for the time being due to restraints on the budget for WTO dispute settlement proceedings.

Notable non-tariff barriers

What notable trade barriers other than retaliatory measures does your country impose on imports?

The Korean government takes the position that it does not maintain any trade barrier that is inconsistent with its obligations under the WTO Agreements. Some foreign governments may, however, disagree with this claim. For example, Japan has challenged some of Korea’s import bans, and testing and certification requirements for radio-nuclides, which the Korean government said was necessary to protect Korean consumers from radioactive pollutant risks. In addition, several measures, including a ban on exporting the local mapping data to foreign companies and environmental measures, are being criticised by some foreign governments.