For each nation’s interestsPresident Donald Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19 had a message as significant as “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” He announced his America First doctrine, saying, “As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else.” CNN reported, “No American president has ever spoken to the world like this” and called it “global Trumpism.”
However, his declaration was different from the 140-character tweets he sends out every morning. The White House released a statement titled “Outlining an America First Foreign Policy” after the speech. America First means America will put its citizens, values and concerns first. Trump reiterated that he would make foreign policy decisions based on outcomes, not ideology. The United States would remain an international leader, but it would also encourage the nations of the world to do their part in the fight against global terrorism and other shared threats.
In the address, Trump praised the Marshall Plan, which offered $14 billion to rebuild Western Europe after World War II, as the biggest accomplishment in U.S. foreign policy. But he skipped the values that America had pursued: democracy and human rights, values that have led the Western alliance over the last seven decades.
Instead, Trump said, “We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.” He advised that just as he would defend America’s interests above all else, other countries should pursue their own. Trump added that all countries needed to cooperate against threats of rogue states like North Korea and Iran based on the foundation of each country prioritizing its own interests.
At the summit last week with President Moon Jae-in, Trump’s doctrine led to an agreement on security cooperation against the North Korean threat, including the purchase of high-tech American-made weapons. But on free trade, it is unclear whether an agreement can be reached. During the meeting, Trump told Moon that the United States was discussing the trade deficit and free trade agreement and would watch the negotiation results. There are rumors that Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council and a close aide to Trump, proposed abolishing the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement instead of the larger North American free trade pact that includes Canada and Mexico.
Some say that the United States’ trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, a champion of Section 301, is calling for a unilateral revision of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement to immediately lower tariffs on American agricultural products and delay tariff abolition in the United States by 5 to 10 years.
Korea’s trade minister, Kim Hyun-chong, had a meeting with Lighthizer on Sept. 20 and plans to visit Washington again on Sept. 26 for another meeting. As Trump has advised, the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and its ratification should be free from domestic politics and instead be focused on pursuing jobs and national interests.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 23, Page 30
*The author is a Washington correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.