Trade Wars & Currency Conflict: China, Japan, and South Korea’s Responses to U.S. Protectionism, 1971-2015

Defining Trade Wars and Currency Conflict
Institutional Variance in Foreign Economic Policymaking
Trade Wars: Responses to US Protectionist Actions (1971-2015)
Trade Wars Continued: Responses to US-initiated WTO Disputes (1995-2015)
Currency Conflict: Responses to US-initiated Currency Appreciation Pressures (1971-2015)
The Next Trade Wars: Responses to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (2008-2015)
The Next Currency Conflict: Responses to the GFC and the Declining US Dollar (2008-2015)
The Change of Tides

China, Japan, and South Korea are the biggest exporters of East Asia. Together, their exports account for 22.6 percent of total US trade. Time and again, the US has imposed punitive tariffs or exercised political pressures to elevate currency values or levels of intellectual property enforcement on countries that it runs trade deficits with, East Asian countries have in turn been prime targets for ‘bashing’ by US policymakers at the height of export growths, but their policy responses have not been uniform.

The US places a great policy emphasis on decreasing trade deficits with East Asia. The US also warns against East Asian currency manipulation that may act as disadvantage for US exporters. Yet the reasons for different East Asian policies to US protectionist pressures is not clearly understood. The question of why East Asian countries have distinctive responses to US pressures has been scrutinized by scholars of international relations and area studies. Their answers have enhanced our understanding of East Asian patterns of responding to the US. Yet much of the scholarly and policy debates has focused on geopolitical factors as the source of diverse policy responses from East Asia. Moreover, scholars have primarily relied on single or two country comparisons, contrasting mainly China and Japan.

By including South Korea – a major global economic player that has received lesser scholarly attention – in a three-country comparison, this book fills the research gap with clear-cut, detailed elaborations on the variation of East Asian policy responses to the US. Analyzing East Asian country responses – each at the culmination of economic confrontation with the US – from cases of US-initiated bilateral trade disputes via the USITC and the WTO to US-initiated bilateral negotiations on currency appreciation in attempts to decrease trade deficits, this book project challenges the East Asian studies scholarship heavily rooted in geopolitical analysis, and argues instead that institutional variance in policymaking has led to Japan’s acquiescence, South Korea’s reciprocation, and China’s escalation in conflicts with the United States.

This book project is based on three years of on-site research consisting of interviews with government officials, policy analysts, academics, and business persons in addition to archival research in Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and Washington, DC.