In the span of 24 hours, Australia inked two free trade agreements with both Japan and South Korea. Even though Holden, Ford and Toyota had already committed to ending auto manufacturing in Australia, it’s hard not to see the agreements as the last nail in the coffin of Australia’s once strong auto industry.
It’s not just the UAW that is upset about free trade agreements. The Koreans are likewise. The offices of the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association were raided by investigators of the country’s Fair Trade Commission, the Financial Times reports. The agency alleges that BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Toyota Motor were involved in price collusion. (Read More…)
“Community” is a nebulous buzzword here in liberal Canuckistan, with the term moving from a synonym for neighborhood, to describing everything from ethnic groups targeted by vote-hungry political parties, to an exercise in social engineering by Ivory Tower types, eager to ram pseudo-progressive initiatives through various legislative and judicial avenues. No wonder the CAW’s new “National Auto Policy”, full of old-school labor/social democrat policies, is being branded with the slogan “It’s About The Community”. Huh?
In many ways it was a strange scene. The president of Korea, speaking in a US factory that builds the replacement to a car that was once imported from Korea. The president of the United States, speaking in a factory that can only competitively build subcompact cars because of a government-ordered “innovative labor practices” that unionized workers were not able to ratify. In many ways, both President Obama and President Lee were visiting the graveyard of their ideals. Which is another way of saying, that this meeting symbolizes a new pragmatism.
American workers may not be getting paid what they once were, but they’re building cars at a profit. Korea may not be exporting as many cars to the US, but it’s putting the squeeze on Japan. Professor Kim Seung-jin of Hankuk University sums up the dynamic in the Korea Times, saying
There is no free lunch in the world… Korea should get into the U.S. market prior to Japan and China. The more we delay the less the advantage. You should know that the world is still living off the American market
This deal probably won’t boost US auto exports to Korea in the way Obama is hoping for, but it’s a reminder that US manufacturing is slowly becoming more competitive… and that our market remains an attractive place to do business. Free trade is necessarily a messy business for politicians, and protectionism might have kept Orion’s wages higher or Aveo production in Korea. But by embracing free trade, these two presidents could walk into Orion, live up to the downsides of free trade, and promise a stronger, more sustainable economic future.
It looks like North Korea’s artillery barrage on a small South Korean island had one of those famous unintended consequences: South Korea, faced by a belligerent enemy, decided to let bygones be bygones. A shell-shocked South Korea and a proud America “completed a free-trade agreement that will eliminate most tariffs on exports and solidify one of the nation’s most significant alliances in Asia,” as the New York Times praises the deal. South Korea stared down the barrels of North Korean guns, and America won the war that never was.
Don’t run down to your Hyundai dealer just yet and expect dramatic price reductions. The deal has major hurdles to pass. And at closer inspection, it looks like an oinking pig in a poke. (Read More…)