UPDATED. 2023-05-31 17:12 (수)
Economic Cooperation in East Asia: U.S. Perspective
Economic Cooperation in East Asia: U.S. Perspective
  • Leif-Eric EASLEY, Associate Prof, Ewha University
  • 승인 2018.12.06 14:48
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Free, fair and reciprocal trade

  • The Trump administration promotes “free, fair and reciprocal trade” to address persistent trade imbalances and provide U.S. workers/industries opportunities to increase exports. The administration pledges to break down trade barriers, oppose closed/mercantilist trading blocs, incentivize market-friendly policies, and pursue enforcement actions when countries violate trade rules to gain unfair advantage.[i]

  • The Trump administration has shown this is not just rhetoric; it has taken bold (some say reckless) action, including tariffs on $250 billion in trade with China and threatening to impose tariffs on all remaining imports from China, worth $505 billion in 2017;[ii] also increasing official scrutiny of Chinese investment in the U.S.[iii]

  • The Trump administration sees China’s trade practices as “predatory” economic “aggression”[iv]: intellectual property theft, promoting/protecting industries favored by Beijing with subsidies and trade/investment barriers, and laying debt traps for other countries. South Korea has similar concerns vis-a-vis China: cybersecurity, regulatory harassment, less complementary economic structure with more industry competition; as China moves up value chain, political tensions increasing, FDI decreasing.


    Multilateral trading system

  • The Trump administration is committed to a “free and open Indo-Pacific”: “free” means every nation protecting their sovereignty; “open” means no exclusionary parallel institutions and respect for global commons (sea, air, space, cyber).

  • The Trump administration withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) showing its preference for bilateral agreements where it believes Washington can exercise leverage vs. multilateral arrangements that it believes allow free-riding. In this vein, the Trump administration renegotiated the KORUS FTA and NAFTA (now USMCA) and is pressuring Japan to address economic issues bilaterally.[v]

  • The Trump administration does not believe the U.S. should shoulder a disproportionate burden for maintaining the “international order.” The U.S. is committed to reforming the WTO to hold countries accountable for mixed records on implementing their obligations. The administration pursues reciprocal economic relationships to ensure a level playing field for American workers and companies.


    Economics and international security

  • South Korea-China trade is mutually beneficial, but THAAD episode demonstrated risks of China’s interference in domestic politics and undue economic coercion against sovereign defense decisions.

  • Trump administration emphasizes the importance of sovereignty and countries making decisions in their own national interests,[vi] but has expanded the use of trade and financial sanctions in security diplomacy and pressures partners to implement such sanctions on North Korea and Iran.

  • China should put its global nonproliferation responsibilities above its economic interests with North Korea; should let inter-Korean cooperation proceed while maintaining sanctions on North Korea until denuclearization.


    Criticisms of Trump approach

  • Transactional approach at the expense of values and international relationships; insufficient attention to human rights, the environment, capacity-building development assistance, anti-corruption, and women’s issues.

  • Taking on too many countries and institutions at once; isolating partners who should be allies in dealing with China’s unfair trade practices.

  • Taking on too many issues at once; makes some Chinese friends see differences as irreconcilable, feeds misperception that U.S. wants end to CCP governance.


    Questions for Dr. Xu Hongcai

  • Did China’s leaders learn from the THAAD debacle?

  • Very few South Koreans see North Korean nuclear weapons “as the common asset of Korean people.” Is this fake news aimed at undermining the U.S.-ROK alliance?

  • Does China take any responsibility for trade frictions with the United States?


[i] The White House. (2017). National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Washington, DC; https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf.

[ii] Bloomberg. (2018). “Trump Asks Cabinet to Draft Possible Trade Deal With China,” November 2, 2018; https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-02/trump-said-to-ask-cabinet-to-draft-possible-trade-deal-with-xi-jnzjeqx4.

[iii] Wayne Morrison. (2018). China-U.S. Trade Issues. Congressional Research Service; https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33536.pdf.

[iv] Vice President Mike Pence. (2018). “Remarks on Administration's Policy Towards China,” Hudson Institute, Washington, DC; https://www.hudson.org/events/1610-vice-president-mike-pence-s-remarks-on-the-administration-s-policy-towards-china102018; White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. (2018). How China’s Economic Aggression Threatens the Technologies and Intellectual Property of the United States and the World; https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/FINAL-China-Technology-Report-6.18.18-PDF.pdf.

[v] Motoko Rich. (2018). “Japan’s Embrace of Bilateral Trade Talks With U.S. Spares It From Tariffs,” New York Times; https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/27/world/asia/japan-trump-trade-talks-auto-tariffs.html.

[vi] President Donald J. Trump. (2017). “Remarks at APEC CEO Summit.” Da Nang, Vietnam; https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-apec-ceo-summit-da-nang-vietnam.


(Remarks at the conference: U.S., China, Peace and the Future of East Asia, Seoul Press Center, December 5, 2018 )

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