U.S. car imports from makers such as General Motors and Ford Motor should become more stylish, cost effective or fuel-efficient to enjoy the benefits of President Donald Trump’s efforts to renegotiate a trade deal with crucial ally South Korea, officials and industry specialists in Seoul said.
Meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently in Washington, Trump stated the United States would do more to resolve trade imbalances with South Korea and develop a level playing ground for U.S. businesses, particularly automakers.
While imports from automakers consisting of Ford, Chrysler and GM more than doubled in 2016 mainly due to free trade deal which took effect in 2012, sales represent just 1 percent of a market controlled by more budget-friendly models from local giants Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors.
Imports comprise only 15 percent of the entire Korean auto market, and are primarily more luxurious models from BMW and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, which likewise take advantage of a trade deal the European Union.
“Dealing with non-tariff barriers would not essentially raise the competitiveness of U.S. automobiles,” a senior Korean government official informed Reuters, refusing to be identified because of the level of sensitivity of the topic.
“Exactly what we really wish to say to the United States is: make good cars, make cars that South Korean customers like.”