At this point, I oppose the FTA because Korea does not seem to be serious about opening its markets fundamentally. Nor do I believe that Korea should be rewarded for doing so much to demagogue anti-Americanism, or to undermine U.S. national security interests or the humanitarian imperatives of the North Korean people. Those are the reasons I don’t buy things made in Korea these days, and I know that the FTA would instead reward Korea’s worst politicians and labor unions by flooding our markets with their products. I do think that in the longer term, the FTA is good for both countries, and that we should revisit the topic in a few years if and when Korea returns to its senses. For now, I’ll probably get my wish. The whole thing seems exceedingly unlikely in an election year in both countries, with the Democrats controlling Congress.
Lay that aside, however, and just study the tone of Ms. Cutler’s reponses. Ms. Cutler is the chief U.S. negotiator, and is with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Ms. Cutler is tough, blunt, and direct, yet diplomatic. Put that into the context of her boss’s previous comments on Kaesong (a dead issue if there ever was one, although many South Korean politicians still won’t dismount the heap of bleached bones). The OUSTR captures exactly the kind of businesslike tone I’ve suggested adopting on security, diplomatic, and human rights issues, without the saccharine about a “strong,” “enduring” alliance that obviously is not. Assertions that diminish our credibility and the gravity of the interests that South Korea is flouting do not strengthen the alliance; they weaken it.