Such A Deal?

Today is Dyngus Day and I feel morally obligated to recognize my ethnic Polish heritage while still covering my “beat” of politics. I do so with today’s title to describe the South Korean trade deal. Let’s explore.

In the days and neighborhood of my youth you would often hear a seamless mix of English and Polish. It frequently took the form of expressions. “Such a deal”, spoken in conjunction with Polish “embellishments”, would sarcastically describe an offer that really wasn’t much of a deal. Say for example something was selling for $5 and a huckster offered you 2 for $10; or worse yet, 2 for $10.99.

Last Thursday during a Buckeye State stop on his way to Mar-a-Lago for another golfing vacation/chance to line his pockets with taxpayer dollars, President Trump bragged of his new South Korean trade deal which he promptly added he may delay implementation of in order to use it as a bargaining chip during his upcoming talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un. If you, like most Americans, were not familiar with the deal there is a good reason – it really isn’t much of a deal.

A major feature of the deal is a “concession” the South Koreans made by increasing the number of American nameplate cars they will allow to be sold in South Korea. On the surface that looks like an American job creating opportunity which is how Trump and his enablers are spinning it. Like most right wing mythology it doesn’t hold up when evaluated in view of the facts. Prior to the new Trump deal the South Koreans allowed each American car manufacturer to sell 25,000 cars per year in their country. The most any sold was less than half (approximately 11,000). Therefore raising the ceiling to 50,000 means nothing.

On the protectionist end nothing changed either. The old agreement called for a 25% tariff on South Korean pickup trucks imported into the United States that was set to expire in 2021. Under the new agreement that same tariff would expire in 2041. One fact worth considering is that no South Korean trucks are sold in America. In fact it becomes a question of definition as to whether KIA or Hyundai either currently manufacturers or has a pickup truck in the planning stage. Looking at it in the most favorable possible light to Trump, it is still debatable as to whether this is a nothingburger or 20 more years of protecting American nameplates.

Remember Trump is the guy who runs around proclaiming he wrote The Art of the Deal and therefore is a dealmaker without equal. In reality he co-authored it. It appears he did his favorite thing – talk about how great he is – while Tony Schwartz did the actual writing. I actually read the book when it came out in the late 1980’s. I wasn’t very impressed by it or Trump’s alleged business genius back then and with the value of hindsight wouldn’t have wasted my money or time on it.

The deal also included a slight limitation on the importation of South Korean steel. Interestingly it did not address the area of currency manipulation which Trump accuses many trading partners of engaging in to the disadvantage of American manufactures.

If Trump is trying to intimidate Kim Jung-un with his negotiating skills I suggest he not use this pact as an example! Personally in evaluating the South Korea Trade Deal and Trump’s negotiating prowess all I can say is, “Such a deal?”

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