As our chaotic president threatens to break a trade deal with South Korea, our governor is wisely taking a different approach.
Gov. Scott Walker left Saturday with a delegation of business leaders on an eight-day trade mission to South Korea and Japan to help Wisconsin farmers, manufacturers, technology companies and service providers sell more of their products overseas. The Republican governor also hopes to attract more foreign investment here.
Wisconsin’s annual exports to South Korea have grown 33 percent since 2010 to $477 million. And a big beneficiary of that increase has been our state’s dairy industry.
South Koreans bought $170 million worth of American-made cheese last year and is the fourth-largest market for U.S. dairy exports, according to the International Dairy Foods Association. Wisconsin sells more cheese to foreign markets than any other state.
President Donald Trump recently instructed his staff to prepare to withdraw from the 2012 free trade agreement with South Korea. Trump laments an overall trade deficit with the Asian country, as if the exchange of products is a zero-sum game. In reality, both countries benefit from selling more of what they do best, while importing more of the things they need at lower prices.
A recent government report suggests the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea would be even larger without the trade agreement that eased tariffs.
The United States enjoys a trade surplus with South Korea when it comes to food, electrical equipment and industrial machines, among other categories of products. The trade deficit with South Korea has a lot to do with Hyundai selling cars and parts here. But even that creates jobs in America.
President Trump has called the Korean trade deal a “horrible” pact that has “destroyed” America. In reality, the agreement has given Wisconsin farmers and many other industries greater access to some 50 million potential South Korean customers who are eager to buy more cheese and other specialty products.
Jim Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, said Thursday his members are “very concerned” about uncertainty in Washington over the South Korean trade agreement. Among the business leaders traveling with Gov. Walker to South Korea in the coming week are a grain elevator operator from Eau Claire and an artisan cheesemaker from Green Bay, according to the governor’s office.
“If these markets are weakened or eliminated, we’re going to suffer on the price we receive very quickly,” Holte said.
It’s bad enough the president is targeting many of the immigrants who make Wisconsin’s farming communities run. Now Trump is risking Wisconsin exports.
Gov. Walker and others who seem to have the president’s ear at times should try to steer him in a better direction for our economy.