S. Korea mid-sized firms expect no improvements in exports

SEOUL-- South Korea's medium-sized companies are not expecting the country's exports to improve this year compared to 2016 due to unfriendly business environments, a local business lobby said Tuesday.

In a survey conducted by the Association of High Potential Enterprises of Korea (AHPEK), nearly 80 percent of 166 companies which have assets of less than 10 trillion won (US$8.8 billion) and annually post 40 billion won-150 billion won in sales said exports will remain unchanged or deteriorate in 2017 compared to the previous year.

The companies that offered a negative outlook on exports mainly cited China's ongoing economic sanctions in retaliation for the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and a possible renegotiation of the free trade agreement with the United States.

China banned the sale of all travel packages to South Korea from March 15 and has taken other steps that are driving down sales of Korean firms in the world's biggest export market. Beijing has opposed the THAAD installation in South Korea, arguing it could be used against it, though Seoul and Washington have said it is aimed at countering missile threats from North Korea.

Moreover, U.S. President Donald Trump recently said he will renegotiate or terminate the free trade pact with South Korea, calling it a "horrible" deal.

More than 30 percent of the 166 respondents didn't expect any improvement in exports and 46 percent of them expected shipments to remain as weak as last year, the survey said.

Last year, outbound shipments from Asia's fourth-largest economy fell 5.9 percent to $495.4 billion from the previous year's $526.8 billion, according to the trade ministry.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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