President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will hold their first face-to-face meetings in Washington on June 29 and 30.
While there are a host of issues that the two presidents could disagree on when they meet at the White House, the real focus of the Trump-Moon summit, beyond cultivating a personal connection and mutual trust, should be to establish a sense of direction and set priorities in the relationship.
U.S.-South Korean relations have been on a relatively positive trajectory through the last three American administrations. This week’s summit should be an occasion to point to the potential for even greater cooperation going forward.
Particularly, from a trade and investment perspective, the two longtime allies have much to gain if the two leaders work together to reinforce the values of open markets and forge a partnership for the future.
The United States and South Korea have already put into place a framework for fruitful economic cooperation.
It would be practical and constructive for the two presidents to lay the groundwork to expand the existing framework by working together on the timely fulfillment of commitments made in the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), advancing energy trade between the two allies, and strategically coordinating engagement with countries in the developing world.
A comprehensive trade pact like the KORUS FTA is not self-executing. Ensuring the positive evolution of KORUS, and maximizing its intended utility as a platform for a greater economic partnership, will require Washington and Seoul to ensure full implementation and vigorous enforcement of the market-freeing measures in KORUS.
On energy, the United States and South Korea are each uniquely situated to advance energy trade and security as a reliable supplier and a strategic buyer, respectively. Advancing energy trade and security between the U.S. and South Korea is a natural and constructive step forward.
Also noteworthy is that as a former recipient of U.S. development assistance, South Korea—now one of the richest countries in the world—adds a unique perspective and credibility to the donor community it has now joined.
A strategic partnership between South Korea and the United States to provide developing countries with values-driven, results-oriented assistance has considerable potential to promote best practices effectively and strengthen aid efficiency. Such a partnership would in turn reinforce other vital economic and diplomatic linkages between the two allies.
South Korea has proven to be a reliable and strong ally for America in advancing freedom, opportunity, and prosperity in the region and around the globe. However, much more can be accomplished, and the United States and South Korea have a lot to offer to each other.
A strong U.S.-South Korea economic alliance is vital for not only America’s international interests, but also for the stability of the region. Trump and Moon have a unique opportunity to continue and expand on this growing partnership with their meetings this week.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal