U.S. President Donald Trump will officially unveil a package of 60 billion dollars (around 64.44 trillion won) in annual tariffs against Chinese products on Friday, The Washington Post reported. The package will reportedly affect not only basic consumer goods such as clothes but technology and communications products and will even include investment restrictions and possibly visa restrictions on Chinese travelers. In size and scope, it seems to be completely aimed at China.
While a trade war between the two superpowers is looming on the horizon, South Korea is finding itself stuck in a tricky situation. A considerable number of electric and electronic products shipped to the United States with a “Made in China” tag use components from South Korea. China is a country that South Korea posts the highest trade surplus against, which stood at 44.3 billion dollars (around 47.5 trillion won) last year alone. Above all, being the world’s sixth largest exporter, South Korea cannot blindly side with its ally in the imposition of protectionist actions.
Nor can it take the side of China; especially now when the United States, in the process of discussing tariffs on steel imports, is continuously suspecting South Korea of purchasing low-priced steel from China and exporting processed products back to the United States. Furthermore, negotiation on the revision of the South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement is currently underway, and the G20 meeting of finance ministers is being held in Argentina. Countries around the world appear to be working in unison to adopt a statement that advocates free trade, criticizing the protectionist measures taken by the United States. In present circumstances, what South Korea needs is a flexible approach through which it can actively support the international order of free trade while seeking its interest in negotiating with the United States.