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USTR chief to emphasize Korea's role in chip supply chain

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Korea's Minister of Trade Yeo Han-koo poses with his U.S. counterpart Katherine Tai after a meeting in Sorrento, Italy, Oct. 12. Courtesy of Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy
Korea's Minister of Trade Yeo Han-koo poses with his U.S. counterpart Katherine Tai after a meeting in Sorrento, Italy, Oct. 12. Courtesy of Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy

By Kim Bo-eun

Korea's role in the global semiconductor supply chain is expected to be a top issue in talks between Minister of Trade Yeo Han-koo and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai slated for Friday.

Tai arrived in Seoul, Thursday, as part of a trip to U.S. allies in Asia. Prior to her visit to Seoul, the U.S. trade chief agreed in Tokyo to set up a forum to boost the two countries' trade partnership.

This is the first time in a decade for the chief U.S. trade negotiator to officially visit Seoul, since 2011 when discussions for the Korea-U.S. FTA (KORUS FTA) were taking place.

Tai is expected to ask Korea to confirm its commitment for an increased trade alliance amid the ongoing dispute between the U.S. and China regarding supply chain issues, and ask Seoul to play a key role in ensuring stability in the global semiconductors supply chain, given Samsung Electronics and SK hynix's weight in the chip industry. Better management of global supply chains has become a top agenda for the U.S., after experiencing disruptions in auto chip supplies, which have taken a toll on carmakers around the world.

The Joe Biden administration is seeking cooperation from allies in revamping global supply chains as a means to contain China's growing influence. The U.S. has stepped up calls for businesses in key sectors including semiconductors and electric vehicle batteries to build production plants on U.S. territory, as a means to secure a supply in the case of further possible supply disruptions.

Samsung is currently in the process of finalizing the location of its second foundry plant in the U.S., with Taylor, Texas, expected to be selected as the site for its $17 billion investment. Local authorities there have finalized a tax incentive package for Samsung, according to reports.

The White House is also said to have being taking various actions, such as lobbying the Netherlands to prevent advanced equipment needed for semiconductor production from being exported to China. While this has not yet affected SK hynix or Samsung's Chinese operations, Washington's stance is posing uncertainties for the firms.

Additionally, the two trade chiefs will address various issues ranging from steel tariffs and trade in technology to tackling climate change.

The USTR is also set to meet with Minister of Employment and Labor An Kyung-duk, Friday, and the two are expected to discuss FTA-related labor issues.

Tai will leave Seoul, Sunday, for India. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo also met government officials and business leaders in Japan, Singapore and Malaysia this week, in what is seen as a strategic tour by key officials to reaffirm cooperation with the U.S.


Kim Bo-eun bkim@koreatimes.co.kr


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