A South Korean delegation will attend a public hearing in Washington today, as the American government mulls over imposing 25% tariffs on automobile imports into the US.
President Trump initiated a probe in May on whether foreign vehicle imports into the country posed a national security threat. The main motivation for Trump’s moves is to arrest the $20 billion trade deficit the US has with South Korea. 70% of that deficit is through superior Korean auto exports to the US.
The current trade dispute demonstrates that South Korea’s security relationship with the US has no real bearing on the White House’s trade calculations. The Blue House is likely reeling from the lack of value the White House has placed on its long-time allied status; especially after giving significant concessions to the US in the renegotiation of their bilateral trade deal in March.
In an era where China is South Korea’s largest export market with $90 billion in exports in 2017—double that of the United States—Chinese influence on Seoul’s policy circles will only continue to grow. If the tariffs go ahead, expect increasing diplomatic resistance to Mr Trump’s strongarm tactics in the medium-term future, possibly in the form of more WTO claims.
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John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.