While America’s trade war with China continues unabated, and the fate of Canada’s status under a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement looks uncertain, the Trump administration’s protectionist threats have reaped one concrete reward.
On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly gathering on Monday, US President Donald Trump hailed the signing of a renegotiated US-South Korea trade agreement as a “historic milestone in trade.”
The new agreement was a direct result of Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from South Korea last March. After the announcement, Seoul was quick to come to the negotiating table, agreeing to change the existing bilateral trade agreement in exchange for an exemption from the metals tariffs.
The US president touted the deal as evidence that he was achieving his campaign promises.
“From Day 1 I promised the American people that I would renegotiate our trade deals to ensure that our agreements were fair and reciprocal.… In addition to this deal, we have many in the works,” he added, referring to trade impasses with virtually all of the United States’ other major trading partners.
Besides South Korea, the closest the administration has come to completing a new trade deal with a major trading partner is with Mexico, which agreed to a partial rework of NAFTA several weeks ago. Negotiations with Canada to join the new deal are continuing this week.
Trump hailed a recent agreement in principle with the European Union to forgo escalating a tit-for-tat tariff battle and instead engage in talks on trade disagreements. Despite a high-profile joint announcement with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the agreement was short on details.
Japan has not been spared from the trade confrontations, and a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the US president at Trump Tower on Monday focused on the issue, along with North Korea. Abe described the conversation with Trump as “very constructive,” according to The Japan Times.