Since the global financial and economic downturn in 2008-2009, China, Japan, South Korea, and many other East Asian countries have begun to accelerate trade liberalization and economic cooperation in East Asia. Presaging this cooperation, China and South Korea have been developing their bilateral trade relationship over the last decade. First, China became South Korea’s largest trade partner in 2003, replacing the United States. Then trade volume between China and South Korea reached $160 billion in 2007, or 32 times higher than it was in 1992 when two countries established formal diplomatic ties. More recently, during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit to South Korea in August 2008, the two nations agreed to make efforts to increase bilateral trade to $200 billion per year by 2012.
In 2006, even before the recent downturn, China stressed the need to push forward free trade agreement talks. Beijing seeks a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Seoul to help reduce its long-term trade deficit with South Korea. Though South Korea has generally favored bilateral FTAs, the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration in Seoul was reluctant to rush into an FTA with China due to fears that low-priced Chinese agricultural products could hurt Korea’s domestic market.
[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.