The possibility of TrumpDonald Trump, nominated for presidency by the Republican Party of the United States, raised concerns when he stated “America First” in his acceptance speech at the Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday. The core of the “America First” policy is that the United States would pursue its own interest even if it means sacrificing the existing alliances and free trade agreements.
Trump has included the U.S.-Korea FTA as an example of what he views as an unfair policy. Trump called out his rival, the Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, saying, “She supported the job-killing trade deal with South Korea.” Trump firmly stated that he will “not sign any trade agreement that nobody comprehends and will renegotiate.”
In an interview with The New York Times, in regards to the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, Trump stated that “there’s no guarantee that we’ll have peace in Korea” from its deployment, which could mean the U.S. will withdraw U.S. troops from Korea if Korea doesn’t increase its share of defense expenditure.
The content of the speech was a repeat of Trump’s view of protective trade policy and “defense free-riders,” but it is noteworthy that he emphasized the view in his speech to accept the Republican presidential nominee and that he has not changed his stance since the start of the presidential campaign.
In June of last year, Trump was considered a feeble candidate, but according to a recent public survey, his popularity grew to the point where he is viewed as a formidable candidate to Clinton. If the trend continues, the possibility of Trump being elected as the U.S. president can increase substantially.
Even if Trump is elected as president, breaking up free trade agreements and withdrawing U.S. troops stationed in foreign countries would not be an easy task because of possible opposition from the U.S. Congress. Despite the opposition, however, the pressure for protective trade policy and increase of shared expenses of U.S. troops stationed in Korea can still happen.
This “America First” mentality, however, has limitations to Trump because his supporters mostly come from angered Caucasians who are either poorly-educated, have low-incomes or been affected by globalization.
Korea is being criticized for having a lack of interest in the matter despite the relatively high possibility of Trump being elected. The Korean government is expected to gather information and build up networks with Trump and his staff.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 23, Page 26