Trump con­fronts leader of S. Korea on trade gap

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - MATTHEW PEN­NING­TON In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle wasc on­tributed by Josh Boak, Jill Colvin and Ken Thomas of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and South Korea’s new leader showed joint re­solve on North Korea on Fri­day de­spite their di­ver­gent philoso­phies for ad­dress­ing the nu­clear threat, yet the U.S. opened up a new front of dis­cord by de­mand­ing a rene­go­ti­a­tion of a land­mark 2012 trade pact be­tween the two coun­tries.

Con­clud­ing two days of meet­ings at the White House, Trump and Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in each de­liv­ered tough talk op­pos­ing North Korea’s de­vel­op­ment of atomic weapons that could soon threaten both al­lies.

The “reck­less and bru­tal regime” re­quires a de­ter­mined re­ply, Trump said. And Moon, who has long ad­vo­cated out­reach to North Korea, vowed a “stern re­sponse” to provo­ca­tion, promis­ing to co­or­di­nate closely with Trump as he looks to in­ten­sify eco­nomic and diplo­matic pres­sure on North Korea.

While they avoided a po­ten­tial con­flict on the most burn­ing na­tional se­cu­rity cri­sis fac­ing each coun­try, they showed lit­tle har­mony on trade.

Sum­mon­ing the eco­nomic na­tion­al­ism that has marked much of his in­ter­na­tional agenda, Trump high­lighted Amer­ica’s trade im­bal­ance with South Korea. Two-way trade in goods and ser­vices was $144 bil­lion last year, with the U.S. run­ning a $17 bil­lion deficit.

“The fact is that the United States has trade deficits with many, many coun­tries, and we can­not al­low that to con­tinue,” Trump said. “And we’ll start with South Korea right now.”

Ahead of their first face-to­face dis­cus­sions, South Korean com­pa­nies an­nounced plans to in­vest $12.8 bil­lion in the U.S. over the next half-decade. Nev­er­the­less, Trump wasn’t pla­cated. He said the two sides would rene­go­ti­ate a 2012 free trade agree­ment, call­ing it a “rough deal” for Amer­ica, echo­ing the sen­ti­ments he has voiced about the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment with Canada and Mex­ico. The White House later con­firmed Trump has asked his trade rep­re­sen­ta­tive to be­gin the process of rene­go­ti­a­tion.

Trump ac­cused Seoul of help­ing steel reach the U.S. at un­fairly low prices. It was an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to Chi­nese steel. Trump also de­manded that mar­ket bar­ri­ers to U.S. auto mak­ers be lifted to give them “a fair shake at deal­ing with South Korea.”

To rub it in, Trump called on his top eco­nomic of­fi­cials to ad­dress their griev­ances to Moon in front of jour­nal­ists.

Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross said the trade im­bal­ance had grown sharply since the trade deal took ef­fect due to un­fair “rule­mak­ing” gov­ern­ing U.S. in­dus­trial prod­ucts en­ter­ing South Korea, par­tic­u­larly au­tos.

It all amounted to an un­usual dis­play of one-up­man­ship in a meet­ing be­tween close al­lies. After the talks, Moon largely skirted the dif­fer­ences on trade, call­ing the U.S.-South Korean eco­nomic part­ner­ship an “es­sen­tial pil­lar” of the al­liance. Such lan­guage is tra­di­tion­ally re­served for their joint ef­fort in the 195053 Korean War and the on­go­ing pres­ence of 28,000 U.S. forces in South Korea.

After the flood of ac­cu­sa­tions of South Korean wrong­do­ing, Moon said through an in­ter­preter: “Eco­nomic growth and job cre­ation will be pro­moted to en­sure our peo­ples en­joy greater mu­tual ben­e­fits.”

De­spite the trade ten­sions, Trump and Moon sought to es­tab­lish a per­sonal bond.

Moon praised the Amer­i­can as a man of “de­ter­mi­na­tion and prag­ma­tism,” and said Trump had ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion to visit South Korea with first lady Me­la­nia Trump later this year. Trump de­clared their re­la­tion­ship “very, very good.”

Moon said the lead­ers agreed to strengthen their de­ter­rence and co­or­di­nate on North Korea pol­icy, em­ploy­ing both sanc­tions and di­a­logue “in a phased and com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach.”

AP/EVAN VUCCI

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump walks Fri­day with South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in to make state­ments in the Rose Gar­den at the White House in Wash­ing­ton.

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