World Bulletin/News Desk
France called on the European Commission on Friday to monitor imports of South Korean-made cars, taking the first step towards triggering a safeguard clause in a free-trade deal that could lead to duties being reimposed.
Since the trade pact came into force in July 2011, France has seen imports of South Korean cars surge while its own carmakers have lost domestic market share to the likes of Hyundai and affiliate Kia, leaving them saddled with massive overcapacity.
France's biggest carmaker, PSA Peugeot Citroen announced plans to close a plant near Paris and cut 8,000 jobs, leaving outspoken Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg battling to limit the damage and avoid further closures.
Montebourg, who has in the past openly supported protectionism, said last week that imports of small diesel cars had risen 1,000 percent in a year, which he said warranted monitoring and possibly restrictions.
"The surveillance of vehicle trade flows aims to shed light on the extent of bilateral imbalances," the industry ministry said in a statement.
"It makes importers have to obtain a permit from the European Commission before all imports," he added. That allows the European Union's executive arm to determine if imports are indeed strong enough to trigger the safeguard clause.
One of the most ambitious trade pacts the EU has negotiated, the agreement with South Korea includes a safeguard clause which allows the EU to re-impose duties if producers in sensitive industries such as cars are hit by a particularly strong surge in imports.
The pact has long been a major source of concern for European carmakers, with the ACEA industry lobby sounding the alarm about "asymmetrical trade flow relations".
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht says trade with South Korea benefits Europe overall, pointing to data showing EU exports to the country climbing 16 percent in 2011 from 2010 to 32.4 billion euros ($39.40 billion). That compares to 24.7 billion euros in 2007.
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Syria expels three United Nations aid workers hindering aid development in the country
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The agreement commits Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to cooperate with the United States in customs issues, ease red tape at borders, reduce customs wait times and harmonize trade standards.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has unnerved China with his re-examination of certain projects that Chinahas invested in, including a $1.5 billion "port city" project in Colombo.
EU energy chief Maros Sefcovic invited Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Demchyshyn for talks
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Energy union highlights bloc's attempt to seek independency from its main gas supplier - Russia.
Merkel's right-left coalition is set to prevail, despite vocal pockets of resistance on the right and left.
Republicans passed the bill to increase pressure on Obama to approve the pipeline, a move the president said would bypass a State Department process that will determine whether the project is in the U.S. national interest.