“IT’S a horrible deal. It was a Hillary Clinton disaster, a deal that should’ve never been made,” said America’s president in April 2017. Donald Trump was threatening to scrap his country’s free-trade agreement with South Korea, known as KORUS, claiming that it had left America “destroyed”. On September 24th, after he and Moon Jae-in, his South Korean counterpart, had signed a revised deal on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Mr Trump sounded much more emollient. “This is a great day for the United States and a great day for South Korea,” he said, having hailed a “basic redoing” of the old, “unfair” version.
In fact, KORUS has undergone something well short of a full overhaul. Most of the original 24 chapters were untouched. KORUS is just the first of many pacts Mr Trump has said he wants to negotiate; on September 26th, for example, Mr Trump announced his intention to start formal talks with Japan. The Japanese may hope the results are similarly shallow.