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Where is our government?

July 04,2018
Chinese premier Li Keqiang reportedly asked politicians and business leaders from Korea to join forces with China to combat global trade protectionism. The plea was made when he attended a meeting in Beijing on Friday co-sponsored by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the China Center for International Economic Exchange to bring together business and former top government officials from the two countries.

Executives from key exporters, including Samsung, SK and Hyundai Motor, would have been confounded by the comment coming from a top official of Beijing who had been merciless on Korean businesses in retaliation for Korea’s deployment of a U.S. antimissile system. Chinese officials are now seeking Korea’s help in a dialogue channel arranged by the private sector amid indifference from the Seoul government.

As the United States and China prepare for a head-on clash, Korea is caught in the crossfire. The main Kospi on Monday fell to 2,271.54, the lowest since President Moon Jae-in was inaugurated on May 10 of last year. Foreign selling sent the won nosediving, pushing it below the 1,120 threshold against the U.S. dollar.

Washington has no inclination to back down. The U.S. Commerce Department has been investigating whether imported cars hurt national security since late May. It can use the same Trade Expansion Act to curb steel imports with a maximum tariff of 25 percent from current 2.5 percent duties on imported vehicles. The levy would kill exports of Korean cars which have benefited from a bilateral free trade agreement. Detroit-based General Motors, which supplies the U.S. market with 1.1 million units produced from its overseas factories, also warned against the tariff bombardment because it will shrivel the U.S. automobile industry.

But our government is nowhere to be seen, even as the trade war reaches a full-blown scale. Trump is spearheading the operation, while Li commands from Beijing. President Moon Jae-in must also stand at the forefront in defense of Korea Inc.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 3, Page 30