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The Peninsula

The Economic Components of the Camp David Trilateral Summit

Published August 23, 2023
Author: Tom Ramage
Category: South Korea

While the economic components of the Camp David summit will not be remembered in the same way as the Plaza Accords or Bretton Woods, the agreement nonetheless lays out an ironclad economic framework for cooperation between the United States, Korea, and Japan which will serve to benefit the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

The economic announcements provide a complement to efforts to deepen security cooperation in an era of increasingly polarizing economic blocs and uncertainty surrounding trade relations. The Camp David Principles provide the architecture for the three countries to work together to reduce vulnerability to the looming specter of Chinese dominance in areas such as critical minerals and semiconductor supply chains, while simultaneously providing opportunities for fair and innovative economic growth.

Biden, Yoon, and Kishida presented a joint statement and fact sheet which among other things included commitments to cooperate on advanced technology, batteries, critical minerals, continued dialogues in shared fora and institutions, and collaboration on countering what was termed “economic coercion.” The summit was additionally fortified with memoranda level commitments by the countries’ development finance institutions to collaborate on infrastructure financing, ICT, carbon neutrality, and supply chain resilience.

The Camp David summit emphasized the outsized role new emerging technologies have in the three countries’ relationship. Semiconductors had particular weight in the outcome of the summit and the joint statement mentioned semiconductor supply chain cooperation as a shared objective of the three countries’ commitments to economic security. Cooperation on artificial intelligence and quantum computing are additional facets that were announced which will further solidify the trilateral technological edge. Moving forward, the United States, Korea, and Japan will collaborate on technology standards and will seek to include Korea in dialogues advanced by the newly created International Standards Cooperation Network.

Furthermore, the leaders agreed to collaborate on materials and other research through their shared Trilateral National Laboratories Cooperation. Through this collaboration, which works with the U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories and their Korean and Japanese counterparts, the countries will work together on emerging technologies to help champion technological advancements and innovation. The Disruptive Technology Protection Network cited in the joint statement builds links between the U.S., Korean, and Japanese governments on technology protection and works with the Disruptive Technology Strike Force to protect critical technological assets. Other areas which will feature future trilateral collaboration and benefit from the supply chain resilience included in the joint statement include clean energy, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and scientific research.

On critical minerals, the Camp David fact sheet cited the troika’s cooperation in the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) and future Trilateral Economic Security Dialogues as outlets through which to coordinate supply chains and share information regarding disruptions. The MSP was announced in June 2022 and seeks to reduce supply chain vulnerabilities for critical minerals through diversifying suppliers and ensure that the countries endowed with critical minerals benefit from their potential. Along this theme, they have committed to launching a pilot Supply Chain Early Warning System (EWS) to alert each other to disruptions in minerals and batteries, which is likely to serve as model for discussions in the negotiations on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).

The economic commitments made at the summit are especially important as the three nations count each other among each of their largest trade partners, while a significant amount of technological innovation and supply chain nodes in highly critical fields such as electric vehicles, computer chips, and batteries are dominated by the partner countries’ firms. The regularization of the summit through its annual occurrence will provide yearly chances to update the priorities of the pact while enabling a “built-in” architecture to future dialogues which should help it weather change in government administration. The continued dialogues will act as a forum to facilitate the partners’ discussion of common ground in an Indo-Pacific, which is seeing increasing competition between the United States and China. It will also provide ways for the three to formalize their strategy to build resilience to possible Chinese supply chain risks. Coordinated export controls, supply chain disruption warning systems, and collaborative technological research are all guided measures by which the three leaders aim to work together towards what they view as Chinese economic coercion.

The decision to include language on economic coercion was buttressed by similar China oriented statements, including language regarding the security of the Taiwan Strait. China, which is taking part in its own economic discussions this week at the BRICS summit, is apparently not indifferent towards the Camp David remarks. In a speech written for Xi Jinping and delivered by China’s Commerce Minister at BRICS, China appeared to address both the security and economic arrangements of the Camp David pact saying “facts have shown that any attempt to keep expanding a military alliance, expand one’s own sphere of influence, and squeeze other countries’ buffer of security can only create security predicaments and insecurity for all countries.” Similarly, Xi’s address in the plenary session provided Chinese ballast, stating “we BRICS countries should be fellow companions on the journey of development and revitalization and oppose decoupling and supply chain disruption as well as economic coercion” while urging the BRICS members to “reject the attempt to create small circles or exclusive blocs.”

The Camp David summit marks the beginning of a new era of cooperation between the three countries and it has implications far beyond security cooperation. The economic commitments put forth establish the cornerstone for future economic success and technological achievement for the troika. Together, the Camp David documents provide the unity needed to achieve progress towards common prosperity and solidarity in confronting shared economic and security challenges.

Tom Ramage is an Economic Policy Analyst at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from the White House X account.

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