Commentary Type

‘Do no harm’ to Korea-U.S. trade relations – in fact, ‘do good’

Gary Clyde Hufbauer (PIIE) and Euijin Jung (PIIE)


President Trump’s overarching theme is “fair trade,” but fairness resides in the eye of the beholder. U.S. and Korean definitions may well differ. Yet invoking the fairness theme, the Trump administration has two operational goals: seek bilateral trade balance and reciprocity. Trump sees U.S. bilateral trade deficits as prima facie evidence of unfair trade. Trump also believes that the absence of “mirror image reciprocity” furnishes additional evidence of unfair trade–in other words, higher foreign barriers on U.S. exports of a specific product than U.S. barriers on imports of the same product. Applying these tests, Trump tosses the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) into the basket of unfair deals, alongside NAFTA.

Read full op-ed in The Hill.

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