Tough on trade (kor)

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Tough on trade (kor)

U.S. President Donald Trump is ratcheting up his rhetoric against his country’s trade partners. On Monday, Trump said he would push for a “reciprocal tax” targeting South Korea, China and Japan, citing the large trade surpluses they have with the United States. The country loses “vast amounts of money with China and Japan and South Korea and so many other countries ... It’s a little tough for them because they’ve gotten away with murder for 25 years. But we’re going to be changing policy,” he said.

On Tuesday, Trump praised General Motors’ decision to close its plant in Gunsan, North Jeolla, one of its four plants in South Korea. He said that “already General Motors is coming back into Detroit.” He added that if he had not been elected president, Americans would not have heard such good news.

If Trump had really understood that a number of South Koreans will be critically affected by the decision by GM, he could not have made such self-praising remarks. Trump continued his habitual attacks on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which took effect in 2012 between the Lee Myung-bak administration and Barack Obama’s administration. “We have a very bad trade deal with Korea,” Trump said during a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss steel and aluminum imports. “The trade deal was a disaster. We’ll either negotiate a fair deal or we’ll terminate the deal.”

What Trump really meant by the reciprocal tax is ambiguous. Nevertheless, his intention is clear. Ahead of the mid-term elections in November, he desires to appeal to voters in the American rust belt, who gave overwhelming support to him in the 2016 presidential election.

An avid champion of so-called “fair trade” based on “America First” — his signature campaign slogan — Trump will certainly raise his voice on trade down the road. As our government responded to his threats by deciding Wednesday to lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization over the Trump administration’s decision to levy high tariffs on Korean steel and electrical transformers, the Moon Jae-in administration must take advantage of multilateral trade platforms to aggressively fight tariffs off while confronting protectionism in a determined way in bilateral trade disputes as well. We must not forget that there are no alliances in the realm of trade relations. The government must thoroughly prepare for future trade battles for the sake of our national interest.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 15, Page 26

도널드 트럼프 미국 대통령이 무역 상대국을 비난하는 말폭탄을 연일 쏟아내고 있다. 12일(이하 현지시간)에는 한국·중국·일본 등 대미 무역흑자국을 거론하며 상호세(reciprocal tax) 도입 방침을 밝혔다. 그는 “한국·중국·일본을 비롯한 여러 나라가 25년간 살인을 저지르고 빠져나간 꼴이기 때문에 우리는 정책을 바꿀 것이며, 조금은 가혹할 것”이라고 공언했다. 13일에는 제너널모터스(GM)의 한국 군산공장 폐쇄 결정과 관련, “정말 중대한 발표다. 내가 대통령이 되지 않았으면 이런 소식을 듣지 못했을 것”이라며 “그들이 한국에서 디트로이트로 돌아오고 있다”고 말했다. GM 때문에 속앓이를 하는 한국인들의 마음을 조금이라도 헤아렸다면 이런 자화자찬은 나오지 않았을 것이다. 입버릇처럼 나오는 한·미 자유무역협정(FTA)에 대한 독설도 이어졌다. 그는 “우리는 한국과 매우, 매우 나쁜 무역협정을 맺고 있다”며 “우리에게 그 협정은 손실만 줬다. 한국과의 협정은 재앙이었다”고 했다.
트럼프가 거론한 상호세는 실체조차 모호하다. 상호세의 구체적인 내용은 추후 밝혀지겠지만 트럼프의 의도는 분명해 보인다. 11월 중간선거를 앞두고 지난 대선에서 자신에게 표를 몰아준 ‘러스트 벨트(Rust Belt)’로 불리는 옛 제조업 중심지의 표심(票心)을 끌어안겠다는 것이다.
자국 우선주의(America First)와 공정무역을 내세우는 트럼프는 앞으로 더 심한 말폭탄도 터뜨릴 것이다. 여기에 일희일비할 필요는 없다. 정부가 어제 한국산 철강·변압기에 고관세를 매긴 미국을 세계무역기구(WTO)에 제소하기로 한 것처럼 다자간 기구를 적극적으로 활용하는 한편 FTA 등 양자 협상에도 당당하게 임해야 한다. ‘무역에선 동맹이 없다’는 트럼프의 말은 우리 가슴에도 새겨야 한다. 오로지 국익이 최우선이라는 시각에서 철저하게 대비하자.
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