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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 4)

All News 07:04 July 04, 2017

Trump's alternative facts
: Korea foots fair bill in FTA, defense

U.S. President Donald Trump is not known for his manners. During the joint press conference with President Moon Jae-in, Trump confirmed his lack of etiquette blurting out complaints about a trade deal and about sharing the burden in maintaining the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). This was not even discussed during their summit, so it came as a "diplomatic ambush" that shouldn't have taken place in the meeting between the two leaders.

Not only was the way he aired his complaints discourteous but also his claims are far from the truth. To the point, Trump cherry picked from statistics on the five years of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (KORUS FTA) to portray it as a one-sided deal that only benefits Korea. Also about the ROK-U.S. special measures agreement (SMA) for sharing the cost of USFK, Korea pays about half of the total tab plus billions of dollars in other expenses. But Trump talked as if Korea makes no contributions. All told, Trump's arbitrary selection of facts and his way of putting his own spin on them is a textbook case of fake news based on alternative facts.

Regarding the 2011-2016 period when the FTA was in effect, Trump said in the press meeting, "... our trade deficit with South Korea has increased by more than 11 billion dollars. Not exactly a great deal."

What he didn't mention includes 1) Korea has suffered from a US$12.5 billion annual deficit with U.S. in the services sector, up 30 percent. 2) Korean firms made direct investments of $36.9 billion in the U.S. _ up 60 percent from before FTA effectuation _ and created tens of thousands of jobs for Americans. 3) Korea has purchased $36 billion in U.S. weapons.

Also noteworthy is the U.S. federal International Trade Commission report in June last year that showed the FTA had an effect of slashing the U.S. trade deficit with Korea by $15.8 billion. In other words, the U.S. could have had a more than $36 billion 2016 deficit with Korea in 2016.

During the five years, Korean goods exported to the U.S. rose 95 percent, far lower than the overall increase of 338 percent with all trading partners.

Trump also said, "... we are working together to ensure a fair burden sharing in support of the US military presence in South Korea." This statement is true if it pertains to the present but borders on fake news if it is aimed at finagling more contributions from its ally. The two sides conduct negotiations every five years and according to their 2014 agreement that covers until 2019, Korea pays 951 billion won or $830 million, about half of the costs. Plus, as President Moon mentioned to influential U.S. Senator John McCain, Korea also has paid about $10 billion for the construction of the new U.S. base in Pyeongtaek. Trump is either misinformed or trying to extort money from the U.S.'s traditional ally. If the first is the case, he should get the facts right. If it is the second, he should be in a business other than being the leader of the free world. If left to his own devices in both cases, it is his fellow Americans who will end up paying.

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