Trump Administration Contemplates the North Korea Model


Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro rumored to be visiting Pyongyang

Marcus Noland (PIIE)



When President Trump indicated that he would be “honored” to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un everyone jumped to the conclusion that the President’s purpose was to negotiate a nuclear deal. But recent developments suggest that Trump may have a very different agenda in mind.

The key is a recent report from Reuters by the indefatigable James Pearson and his colleague Sue-Lin Wong titled “Made in North Korea: As tougher sanctions loom, more local goods in stores.” According to their piece, for the last four years the DPRK has been following a policy of import substitution with North Korean characteristics (aka "import substitution in our own style"). The aim has been to displace Chinese products with locally manufactured alternatives. Domestically produced goods replacing Chinese imports include motorcycles, solar panels, charcoal face masks, and carrot-flavored toothpaste. Compressing the US trade deficit is an obsession of the Trump regime, with a special animus directed at China which exports to the US $100s billions more than it imports. One can see why Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House manufacturing maven Peter Navarro are ga-ga over the North Korean initiative, even if there is not a lot of demand for carrot-flavored toothpaste in the US.

"The attractions of the North Korean model are not limited to squeezing the trade deficit with China." 

The attractions of the North Korean model are not limited to squeezing the trade deficit with China. With the media in a frenzy over the firing of FBI Director James Comey, it has not gone unnoticed that unlike here in the US, Kim Jong-un is free to purge anyone he wants, even killing them with chemical weapons or anti-aircraft guns if he so desires. And needless to say, when Kim Jong-un wants to pass legislation through the Supreme People’s Assembly, he doesn’t have to worry about Paul Ryan or the Freedom Caucus—all legislation is passed by unanimous acclamation. (And if anyone is stupid enough not to stand up and applaud, well, there’s a reason they keep those anti-aircraft guns handy.) 

Best of all, nothing is ever your fault. Just ask Park Nam-gi.

The White House is refusing to confirm rumors that Ross and Navarro are in Pyongyang for consultations—not on the nuclear issue—but on replacing Chinese products with locally made manufactures. Nor will it confirm the story circulating around Washington that White House political guru Steve Bannon is also in Pyongyang comparing notes on political management with his North Korean counterparts. When located hiding behind a geranium in the East Wing, an anonymous White House spokesperson indicated that they were not authorized to comment on obviously fake news stories emanating from the Peterson Institute.

More From

Related Topics