South Korea automakers’ shares rise on hope of U.S. tariff exemption

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean automakers saw their shares rise on Monday on optimism they would be exempt from import tariffs on vehicles the United States deems a threat to national security, after the U.S. president said a revised trade deal could address concerns.

Hyundai Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp shares were both up nearly 3% in morning trade.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday declared some imported vehicles and vehicle parts posed a national security threat. But he delayed a decision for as long as six months on whether to impose import tariffs to allow for more time for trade talks with the European Union and Japan.

He also said a U.S.-South Korea bilateral trade deal, revised last year and in which Seoul made auto sector concessions, “could help to address the threatened impairment of national security”.

“We hope that Korea would not make the list of countries subject to tariffs, but it is premature to make a prediction,” South Korea’s finance minister, Hong Nam-ki, told reporters after a government meeting on Monday.

“The government will not lay back and will continue all-out efforts to persuade the United States not to put Korea on the list,” Hong said.

Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp, which said in March it would invest $13 billion in U.S. operations through 2021, called the U.S. declaration “a major set-back for American consumers, workers and the auto industry” and said it sent the message “our investments are not welcomed”.

Toyota and Honda Motor Co Ltd shares were traded nearly flat on Monday. Nissan Motor Co Ltd saw its shares fall 1.6%.

Nissan exports roughly 31% of Japan-made cars to the United States compared with 22% at Toyota, Moody’s estimated last year. Honda has the lowest ratio among the three, Moody’s said.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Additional reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Christopher Cushing)