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South Korea Offers Trump A Multi-Billion Dollar Trade Gift As President Comes To Washington

REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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South Korean businesses unveiled a multi-billion dollar plan for investment in the U.S. as the new president heads to Washington to meet President Donald Trump for the first time.

Top executives from 52 South Korean companies will accompany President Moon Jae-in on his first official visit to the U.S. since he was elected in early May. South Korean businesses plan to invest $12.8 billion in the U.S. over the next five years, according to Yonhap News Agency. Furthermore, South Korean companies intend to spend an additional $22.4 billion on American products and resources.

Companies have announced plans to import more shale gas and build new factories in the U.S., the Associated Press introduced. Trump has criticized the trade relationship with South Korea, calling bilateral free-trade agreements unfair and detrimental to America’s national interests. South Korea appears to be preempting further criticism by presenting a plan that could lead to job creation and economic growth.

Bilateral trade between the U.S. and South Korea totaled $144.6 billion last year. The U.S., however, ran a $17 billion trade deficit, nearly double the figure before a bilateral free trade agreement went into effect in 2012.

Samsung Electronic Co. said Wednesday that it will invest $380 million in the construction of a new production facility for home appliances in South Carolina. This project is expected to generate around 1,000 new jobs. The company also plans to spend $1.5 billion on a semiconductor plant in Texas. LG Electronics said that it will spend a total of $550 million on new facilities in Texas and New Jersey.

While North Korea is expected to feature prominently in discussions between Trump and Moon, trade will also be a focus of the meeting. Trump will demand South Korea lift trade barriers to U.S. auto sales in South Korea, as well as raise concerns over Chinese steel exports entering the U.S. by way of South Korea, during discussions with Moon.

A similar approach was seen in negotiations with Japan, another important U.S. ally in East Asia.

Trump criticized Japanese currency management and trade practices on the campaign trail, putting emphasis on the $60 billion dollar trade deficit last year, serious barriers to trade in the auto market, and currency manipulation.

The president also called out Japan and South Korea for failing to pay their fair share for defense.

When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the U.S. in February, he unveiled a trade plan involving billions of dollars in investment and the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Even China, which Trump criticized heavily, came bearing gifts, offering assistance on North Korea and a plan with the potential to increase U.S. exports to China to bring down the massive trade deficit.

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