South Korea, one of Asia’s strongest countries, was not included in the TPP deal. South Korea has expressed interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but until now has not been allowed access. However, as expressed in the recent article “South Korea, Mexico Agree to Restart Free Trade Discussions” (http://www.livingstonintl.com/international-regulatory-updates/south-korea-mexico-agree-to-restart-free-trade-discussions/) there have been recent talks of a trade deal between South Korea and Mexico. President Park Geun-hye visited Mexico in early April, and “hinted at an interest in developing an agreement with her country’s top Latin American trade partner. President Park was also quoted saying “I think it’s meaningful for South Korea and Mexico to sign a free trade agreement to expand trade investment and strengthen economic cooperation.” The logic behind her suggesting is that while Mexico is part of the TPP, the 12-nation trade agreement is still a long way away from being implemented. As stated in the article “with the status of the agreement gummed up in the U.S. Congress and no clear path in sight for the TPP, the Mexican government seems to have decided that a deal with South Korea is worth pursuing.” Once the TPP is implemented, Mexico will have access to various Asian markets, and a free trade agreement with South Korea may not be necessary. How will these trade negotiations affect South Korea’s chances of being admitted into the TPP? Will Mexico receive push-back from other TPP members for these recent negotiation talks? Will this delay the TPP adoption even further? In the case of South Korea, Mexico, and the other TPP members, only time will tell.
An article published on October 21st, 2015 in the Tech Times, http://www.techtimes.com/articles/97472/20151021/samsung-south-korea-team-up-to-build-robots-that-will-replace-human-workers.htm, describes how Samsung has received an investment of $14.8 million from the government of South Korea to develop robots that can perform complex tasks in factories and compete with the cheap labor rates of China. Many smartphone manufacturers, including Samsung, are dependent on cheap Chinese labor for manufacturing many of their products. However, the increasing labor costs of Chinese workers has been negatively affecting many of these company’s profits. Increasing labor costs in China is one of the main reasons why Samsung is making the switch to automated factories. The South Korean Ministry stated, “Once affordable robots reach the market and are more widely used, it can lead to the creation of ‘smart factories’ and bring about far-reaching innovations to the manufacturing sector.” In 2014 robot sales increased by 29% over 2013 and were at their highest level ever at 229,261 units. Even with that, only 10% of manufacturing processes are done by robots, but that number is estimated to double by 2025. The South Korean Ministry is claiming that if Samsung successfully develops robots that can perform complex human tasks, then the dependence on cheap Chinese labor will decrease over time, not only in South Korea but also in other parts of the world.
Will Samsung be able to develop robots to successfully manufacture smart phones? If so, what impact will that have on the smartphone and tablet industries? What impact will this have on the Chinese manufacturing sector? Is this the fate of any other future industries?