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《经济学人》日韩贸易争端

2019 年 07 月 19 日 • 经济学人

日韩之间的贸易争端和特朗普主义相呼应。近期日韩之间正在发生的贸易争端 [brawl],可能造成和特朗普发起的贸易战同样大的危害。这也表明特朗普滥用 [abuse] 权利打压 经济伙伴的做法正在蔓延。

The Economist, July 19th-26th Print Edition.

日本曾在 1910~1945 殖民韩国,日本方面认为两国在 1965 年的声明已经解决了强征劳工的问题。但去年韩国最高法院判决日本公司补偿当年的受害者,这激怒了 [incense] 日本。7 月 4 日日本采取了严厉的行动,限制出口三种特定的被用于半导体和智能手机生产的化学品到韩国。

日本生产的这三种化学品占到了全球 90% 的市场份额,去年出口到韩国的这三种化学品价值近 4 亿美元。虽然金额听起来不是很多,但因为它们被用于生产各种电子设备都所需的内存芯片,因此它们的重要性不言而喻。

此外韩国企业是世界上主要的内存生产商,如果日本限制 [choke off] 出口,那它带来的伤害将通过全球科技供应链扩散 [ripple through] 开来。

日本方面暗示接下来可能会对大约 850 种带有军事用途的产品在出售至韩国前要求逐个批准,对此韩国企业已经呼吁抵制日产商品。日韩之间的年贸易额(800 亿美元)比英法之间还要多,因此两国应该从危险边缘回归。

日本限制出口的决定在经济上是短视的,因为它应该知道自此以后它也会被对方控制。当中国在 2011 年限制对日出口稀土后,日本通过投资本土的稀土来予以回应,最终导致中国的市场份额下降。同样韩国政府已经在讨论促进国内化学品生产的计划。虽然日本坚称韩国企业被允许后仍然可以购买日本的化学品,但是禁运的威胁一旦发布,将很难驱散 [dispell]

在广泛的地缘政治背景下,日本的自我损害显得很鲁莽。区域供应链已经收到攻击,日韩企业正在争夺替代中国的生产基地来规避美国的关税。特朗普已经发出威胁,要对日韩企业的汽车征收进口关税。

特朗普擅于在使用经济武器时用政治争议作为借口。他的策略教会了其他人如何为贸易争端找借口——以危害国家安全为由。日本媒体已经暗示韩国允许向朝鲜出口敏感的化学品,尽管这种指控非常牵强 [far-fetched],但被日本用来作为限制向韩国出口的主要理由。

日韩之间若想缓和双方紧张局势还来得及,迄今为止商业上的伤害还有限。两国将在本月晚些时候在 WTO 框架下讨论争议。

这看起来像是一个测试——看全球贸易体系能否在巨大的压力下仍能缓解 [soothe] 紧张局势,抑或是被一个不良的新体系取代——在这个新体系中供应链被作为武器,商业完全成为政治的拓展。

brawl 英[brɔːl , bɔːl] n. 喧闹; 斗殴; 闹事; v. 打斗; 闹事
spat 英[spæt] n. 小争吵; 小别扭; 口角 v. 吐,唾(唾沫、食物等); 怒斥
defuse 英[ˌdiːˈfjuːz] v. 缓和; 平息
supplant 英[səˈplɑːnt] v. 取代,替代(尤指年老者或落后于时代的事物)

Japan and South Korea: Asia’s homegrown trade war

A trade dispute between Japan and South Korea has Trumpian echoes

Jul 20th 2019

Take just about any trade fight today, and President Donald Trump’s America is at the centre of it: with Europe over cars and aeroplanes; with foreign producers of steel; with China over, well, everything. But a brawl now under way in Asia, between Japan and South Korea, has the potential to be as damaging as much of what Mr Trump has stirred up. It is also a sign that his model of abusing economic partners is spreading.

Tensions between Japan and South Korea go back centuries. Japan’s colonisation of Korea between 1910 and 1945 is still resented. Japan believes a 1965 agreement resolved claims by South Korea over forced labour. It is incensed that South Korea’s supreme court last year ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims (see Banyan). Amid a widening rift, Japan took its most serious action on July 4th when it began restricting exports to South Korea of three specialised chemicals used to make semiconductors and smartphones.

The stakes are high. Japan accounts for as much as 90% of global production of these chemicals. It exported nearly $400m-worth of them to South Korea last year. That may not sound like much, but their importance is outsized. They are needed to make memory chips, which are essential to all sorts of electronic devices. And South Korean firms are the world’s dominant manufacturers of memory chips. If Japan were to choke off exports, the pain would ripple through global tech supply chains.

Japan has also hinted that it might start requiring case-by-case licences for the sale to South Korea of some 850 products with military uses. South Korean firms have called for boycotts of Japanese goods. The two countries, whose trade relationship, worth over $80bn a year, is larger than that between France and Britain, need to step back from the brink.

Japan’s decision to limit exports is economically shortsighted, as it should know since it has itself been on the other side of such controls. When China restricted exports of rare-earth minerals in 2011, Japan responded by investing in its own mines. China’s market share dropped. Already, the South Korean government is discussing plans to foster the domestic chemicals production. Japan insists that South Korean companies will, once approved, still be able to buy its chemicals, but the threat of an embargo, once issued, cannot be easily dispelled.

The broader geopolitical context makes Japan’s self-harm even more reckless. Regional supply chains are already under assault. South Korean and Japanese companies are scrambling to find alternatives to China as a manufacturing base to avoid American tariffs. Mr Trump has threatened both countries with import duties on their cars.

Ultimately, it is up to South Korea and Japan to repair relations. But America’s waning interest in diplomacy does not help. And Mr Trump is normalising the use of trade weapons in political spats. His tactics teach others how to find an excuse for these actions: by citing national security. Japanese media have suggested that South Korea has allowed the shipment of sensitive chemicals to North Korea, a far-fetched claim but one that could feature in a defence of its export restrictions. Under a different president, America would be doing more to bind together Japan and South Korea, two indispensable allies. Barack Obama pushed the Trans-Pacific Partnership that included Japan, and that South Korea was expected to join eventually. One of Mr Trump’s first acts was to ditch that deal.

It is not too late to defuse the situation. The commercial damage has been limited so far. Japan is aware that, notwithstanding America’s current tactics, export controls look bad; it is thus susceptible to pressure from other trading partners. The two countries will discuss their disagreement at the World Trade Organisation later this month. This is shaping up to be a test of whether the global trading system can, despite great strains, still soothe tensions—or whether it is being supplanted by a new, meaner order, in which supply chains are weaponised and commerce is purely an extension of politics.■

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