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Trump’s Bilateralism: US Trade Policy in Northeast Asia


Leader Takashi Terada(Doshisha University)
Researcher T. J. Pempel (Professor, University of California, Berkeley), Yul Sohn (Yonsei University), Shihoko Goto (Wilson Center)
Term December 2017-March 2019
Research Outline

The Trump administration has employed ‘America First’ as its defining electoral and governing slogan, viewing economic openness and globalisation as harmful to US jobs and industrial competitiveness. The Trump administration regards trade surpluses as evidence of winning and deficits as evidence of losing; the stated goal is consequently bilateral trade deals as the optimal approach to reduce America’s trade deficit with its key trading partners. The result has been a turn towards economic protectionism, including American withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It is not clear that such a pursuit of bilateral trading arrangements is even economically feasible but this policy stance displays a broader lack of confidence in multilateral institutions and contributes to the growing doubts about America’s leadership credibility in the Asia-Pacific. The panel aims to examine the U.S. moves toward bilateralism-centred trade policy towards Northeast Asia; China, Japan and South Korea, all of which have recorded massive trade surpluses with the US and have been placed on the US foreign exchange “monitoring list”. The panel also explores the other three nations’ views on the Trump trade policy and their respective approach to managing any potential trade negotiations with the United States, such as KORUS renegotiations and a US-Japan FTA.

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