The Trump Administration, U.S.-Korean Economic Relations, and Asian Regionalism


This analysis written “in medias res” (in the midst of things) covers trade policy under President Donald Trump. The basic outline was prefigured during the presidential campaign, but this did not preclude surprising policy twists and turns (even contradictions) during the first months of the administration. In part, these tergiversations can be explained by the shakedown cruise for any new regime, but in this case, this fairly standard phenomenon has been complicated by the highly personal, idiosyncratic “Trump brand” of policymaking. In many areas of domestic and foreign policy, Trump had little or no experience or fixed opinions. Not so with trade: well back in the 1980s, Trump, as a private corporate leader, had railed against the “unfair” trade practices of Japan and other U.S. trade partners, as well as mounting U.S. trade deficits.1 These themes defined his presidential campaign and have been carried through in actions since he took office in January. The trade priorities have included: “America First” and the vigorous assertion of U.S. sovereignty, with the undisguised threat of unilateral action in defiance of the World Trade Organization; trade negotiations and renegotiation of existing trade agreements with the primary goal of reducing U.S. trade deficits; stepped up use of trade remedy (anti-dumping and countervailing duties) actions, as well as the threat to retaliate against U.S.-defined “unfair” trade practices; and tying trade restrictions directly to alleged national security imperatives. Yet, what seems a sure fact one day may be outdated the next, complicating preparation of this chapter.

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