In South Korea, Joe Biden Seeks to Rebuild Economic Ties Across Asia

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea – President Biden kicked off his first diplomatic mission in Asia on Friday with a visit to a Samsung semiconductor facility in South Korea, part of his efforts to boost his image. America’s waning economic influence in the region and address supply chain issues. hurt American consumers back home.

Shortly after landing at Osan Air Base, Biden accompanied South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol to visit the Samsung factory, hailing it as a model for the kind of manufacturing the United States desperately needs to combat inflation spiked and to compete. China’s growing economic dominance.

“This is a good start to my visit, because it is a symbol of the future cooperation and innovation that our nations can and must build together,” Biden said. and adds that Samsung will invest $17 billion to build a similar factory in Taylor, Texas.

The decision to embark on a five-day tour of South Korea and Japan, his first in the region as president, with a visit to a semiconductor facility underscores the complexities of the trip aimed at enhancing security ties, forge new economic treaties, and reassure allies of America’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific after months of prioritizing the war in Ukraine and years of ceding influence to North Korea. Terrible.

While stronger competition with China is a central goal of Mr. Biden’s foreign policy, the administration also views its allies in the Indo-Pacific as important partners as it tries to trying to untie supply chains and restart American manufacturing.

“Our two countries work together to create the best, most advanced technology in the world,” Biden said at the factory, surrounded by a display of Samsung employees listening to comments. his review. “And this factory is proof of that, and that gives both South Korea and the United States a competitive edge in the global economy if we can keep our supply chains flexible, reliable and safe”.

But countries in the region have been wary of economic guarantees from Washington since the Trump administration pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a US-negotiated trade pact aimed at countering Beijing.

When Mr. Biden arrives in Japan for his second trip over the weekend, he is expected to announce a new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, outlining priorities such as digital trade and the ability to supply chain resilience among allies. But it is unclear how many countries will sign on to a new economic strategy without a formal trade agreement.

Even Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, on Thursday said governments in the region are still asking, “What are we signing up for?”

Scott A. Snyder, director of US-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Mr. Biden’s proposal is essentially “a new package of existing priorities for the Biden administration in the policy area. this economy”.

“And whether it actually succeeds depends on whether the partners believe there is enough there to justify participation,” he said.

Mr. Snyder added that he thinks South Korea is taking seriously the Biden administration’s commitment to invest in the region. “I think they are believing,” he said. “And we’ll see if they’re whistling through the graveyard.”

During the factory visit, Mr. Biden made it clear that his focus is not only on strengthening American influence abroad, but also addressing domestic policy challenges in the United States. While demand for products containing semiconductors grew 17% from 2019 to 2021, supply has yet to experience a comparable increase, partly due to disruptions related to the pandemic.

As a result, car prices have skyrocketed, and demand for more chips is likely to increase as 5G technology and electric vehicles become more common.

Biden’s commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, warned this year that the US has faced “alarming” shortages of semiconductors, adding that the crisis has contributed to the lead inflation to its highest level in about 40 years.

Rising consumer prices have helped lower the approval rating for Mr. Biden, who has seized on global supply chain issues to urge Congress to pass proposed legislation that would provide $52 billion in funding and subsidies to semiconductor manufacturers and $45 billion in grants and loans to support the resilience of U.S. manufacturing and supply chains.

Samsung’s halt is just an attempt to encourage Asian allies to invest in the United States. On Sunday, Mr. Biden will join the chairman of Hyundai to celebrate the South Korean company’s decision to invest in a new battery and electric vehicle manufacturing facility in Savannah, Ga.

With questions surrounding his administration’s economic strategy in Asia and the manufacturing bill stuck in Congress, Mr. hope to find a useful partner in Korea. Asia in the Obama Administration.

“I think the relationship, which is already quite strong, can flourish,” Mr. Russel said. “There is a strong convergence of views between the Biden team and the Yoon team on security policy, including concerns about China, the need for global cooperation, and working together on semiconductors and trade. ”

Yoon, a conservative politician and a former prosecutor, is one of several leaders in the region who have welcomed the Biden administration’s traditional approach to foreign policy after the tumultuous years of President Donald Trump’s presidency. President Donald J. Trump. Soon after Mr. Yoon was elected in March, he sent a delegation of senior advisers to Washington to build ties with the Biden administration.

Sue Mi Terry, director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center in Washington, said she expected Mr. Biden and Mr. Yoon to have natural chemistry. “While President Yoon has a dignified image as a former prosecutor, he is actually a commoner, middle-class and ordinary person – like the ‘ordinary Joe’ in the White House,” she said.

The Yoon administration has coordinated with US officials on sanctions against Russia and has also agreed to comply with export controls for critical technologies. Although South Korea remains a major buyer of Russian oil, it has shown that it is working to reduce this purchase. According to people familiar with his thinking, Mr. Yoon is also looking to determine which supply chains can be moved out of China for greater economic security.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Yoon are scheduled to have a bilateral meeting in Seoul on Saturday. Outside of China, escalating tensions with North Korea will likely be a focus. Compared to his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, Yoon has taken a tougher stance on North Korea and will likely seek to discuss missile technology and deployment with the United States during Biden’s visit.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said during the president’s flight to South Korea that Washington was preparing for a possible nuclear test or missile test from North Korea, in March. ended the ban on testing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“There is a real possibility, a real risk of some kind of provocation while we are in the area,” said Sullivan from Air Force One. “I think all it’s going to do is highlight one of the key messages we’re sending out on this trip, which is that the United States is here for our allies and partners.”

Peter Baker contribution report from Seoul, Edward Wong from Washington and Motoko Rich from Tokyo.

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