“Looking at Free Trade and Korea’s Position in a Globalized World ”
Asia Institute Seminar with Mark Kingwell
May 10, 2012
Department of Philosophy
University of Toronto
Free Trade agreements, especially with the United States, seem to raise very strong emotional responses in Korea. Koreans associate them with mad cow disease and undue influence of multinational corporations. And yet, oddly, trade agreements with Europe or India have not resulted in that degree of protest.
It seems many see trade liberalization, specifically the KORUS FTA with the United States, as opening the flood gates for influence by American multinational corporations and the import of unhealthy foodstuff. The import of American goods will put Koreans out of work and result in greater interference of the United States in Korea at the local level.
And yet, when it comes to trade, things are not exactly what many people think they are. Many Korean companies are themselves powerful multinationals and the balance of power between the United States and Korea, is far from obvious.
Koreans run around worrying that Americans will come in and just buy up valuable Korean companies and dominate the nation. But in fact, Korea is likely to invest far more in the United States than the United States could possibly invest in Korea over the next decade. If there is a problem in trade, it cannot be reduced to an America vs. Korea equation.
Some years ago, Canadians went through a similar debate concerning the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Mexico; but there are two significant differences between Canada’s relationship with the United States and Korea’s. First, Canada is a resource-rich country. Our historical identity is as lumbermen and hewers of wood or drawers of water and will likely continue to determine our future, at least its immediate version, with respect to the rest of the world. Read more of this post