Trump don't play dat

The U.S. runs trade deficits with South Korea.  In 2016, these amounted to $17 billion in goods and services.  This situation has been addressed by the one-on-one trade agreement the Trump administration just concluded with that Asian country.  This is significant for a number of reasons.

First off, although a $17-billion yearly deficit might not seem like all that much in this day and age, it is just the beginning of what this agreement can mean.  Let's review.

The original U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) was signed by President Barack Obama in 2011.  At that time, Obama said the pact would increase U.S. exports and result in the creation of 70,000 American jobs.  But like so much of the feel-good rhetoric spouted by the former president – reminiscent of "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" – this turned out to be wildly untrue.  Looking back, analysis show that the Obama-Korea trade pact, instead of creating U.S. jobs, eliminated more than 95,000 of them between 2011 and 2015.

Second, look what Trump got out of South Korea.  The deal 1) opens South Korea's market to American cars by lifting existing limits on companies like GM and Ford, 2) extends tariffs for Korean truck imports to the year 2041, 3) reduces by nearly a third the amount of steel South Korea currently exports into the U.S., and 4) eases the customs and regulatory barriers that made it hard for U.S. firms to sell in Korea. 

Third, consider what Trump gave up in this deal.  He permanently excluded Korea from his recently announced steel and aluminum tariffs.  Among other things, this shows  that the smug know-it-all critics of these tariffs were clueless as to what Trump was up to.  Instead of igniting a trade brawl with the world, those tariffs were basically a head-slap to get the attention of our trading partners.  So far, it is working.

Fourth, this Korean agreement can serve as a template for more one-on-one trade deals instead of the cumbersome and bureaucratic multi-county agreements like the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Trump scrapped immediately on taking office.  And speaking of TPP, given how the Korean deal of 2011 led to the loss of American jobs in spite of promises to the contrary, imagine how bad the results would be for America if the Obama-negotiated 12-nation TPP had gone into effect. 

Some countries are offended by Trump's "pugilistic" approach to trade.  Take President Emmanuel Macron of France for example.  He is quoted as saying something to the effect that we'll talk about everything and anything in principle but will talk about nothing with a gun to our head.  (An asinine analogy, to say the least.)  People like Macron view Trump's "preference to punch first and negotiate later as counter to global interests" and are "frustrated  by the coercive negotiations tactics coming from Washington."

Let me translate.  Countries like France, Germany, China, and so on would prefer to kick Trump's call for trade renegotiations to the World Trade Organization (WTO), where American complaints can be talked to death or where, after tedious negotiations, foreign countries will give an inch or two when a mile is called for.  Sorry gang, but like Homie D. Clown of the old Living Color TV show, Trump don't play dat.

The U.S. runs trade deficits with South Korea.  In 2016, these amounted to $17 billion in goods and services.  This situation has been addressed by the one-on-one trade agreement the Trump administration just concluded with that Asian country.  This is significant for a number of reasons.

First off, although a $17-billion yearly deficit might not seem like all that much in this day and age, it is just the beginning of what this agreement can mean.  Let's review.

The original U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) was signed by President Barack Obama in 2011.  At that time, Obama said the pact would increase U.S. exports and result in the creation of 70,000 American jobs.  But like so much of the feel-good rhetoric spouted by the former president – reminiscent of "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" – this turned out to be wildly untrue.  Looking back, analysis show that the Obama-Korea trade pact, instead of creating U.S. jobs, eliminated more than 95,000 of them between 2011 and 2015.

Second, look what Trump got out of South Korea.  The deal 1) opens South Korea's market to American cars by lifting existing limits on companies like GM and Ford, 2) extends tariffs for Korean truck imports to the year 2041, 3) reduces by nearly a third the amount of steel South Korea currently exports into the U.S., and 4) eases the customs and regulatory barriers that made it hard for U.S. firms to sell in Korea. 

Third, consider what Trump gave up in this deal.  He permanently excluded Korea from his recently announced steel and aluminum tariffs.  Among other things, this shows  that the smug know-it-all critics of these tariffs were clueless as to what Trump was up to.  Instead of igniting a trade brawl with the world, those tariffs were basically a head-slap to get the attention of our trading partners.  So far, it is working.

Fourth, this Korean agreement can serve as a template for more one-on-one trade deals instead of the cumbersome and bureaucratic multi-county agreements like the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Trump scrapped immediately on taking office.  And speaking of TPP, given how the Korean deal of 2011 led to the loss of American jobs in spite of promises to the contrary, imagine how bad the results would be for America if the Obama-negotiated 12-nation TPP had gone into effect. 

Some countries are offended by Trump's "pugilistic" approach to trade.  Take President Emmanuel Macron of France for example.  He is quoted as saying something to the effect that we'll talk about everything and anything in principle but will talk about nothing with a gun to our head.  (An asinine analogy, to say the least.)  People like Macron view Trump's "preference to punch first and negotiate later as counter to global interests" and are "frustrated  by the coercive negotiations tactics coming from Washington."

Let me translate.  Countries like France, Germany, China, and so on would prefer to kick Trump's call for trade renegotiations to the World Trade Organization (WTO), where American complaints can be talked to death or where, after tedious negotiations, foreign countries will give an inch or two when a mile is called for.  Sorry gang, but like Homie D. Clown of the old Living Color TV show, Trump don't play dat.