New York: President Donald Trump ended his swing through Asia hailing progress in advancing his goal of reducing the US trade deficit.
Trump took off from Manila on Air Force One after two days of meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the final stop on a trip that also took him to Japan, South Korea, China and Vietnam. He encountered dozens of regional leaders, including formal meetings with the heads of Asia’s five biggest economies and met briefly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“After my tour of Asia, all Countries dealing with us on TRADE know that the rules have changed,” Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday. “The United States has to be treated fairly and in a reciprocal fashion. The massive TRADE deficits must go down quickly!”
The president spent the bulk of his public appearances emphasising the need to reduce trade deficits, and also pushed for Asian nations to buy US military equipment. He publicly advocated his “America first” policies, warning US trading partners that he was ready to take more protectionist steps in a bid to help American businesses and workers.
Trump announced on Twitter that he will be making a “major statement” when he returns to Washington. But while Trump made rhetorical waves during his first visit to the region as president, questions about how much he actually achieved continue to linger.
Business deals announced by the president are tentative agreements that may not be fulfilled. And while the president railed against what he viewed as systemic flaws in the US trading relationship with its Asian partners, he neither publicly requested nor received specific assurances to address issues like market access and intellectual property theft.
Instead, the president seemed to relish the efforts by Asian leaders to lavish him with state dinners and ceremonial welcomes. Each of his Asian hosts appeared eager to fete Trump with elaborate parades and entertainment, in efforts that solicited warm praise from the US president — without the expense of actual policy concessions.
The president and senior White House staff say that the red-carpet treatment was itself a win, and underscored new deference and respect for the US in relationships they say were worn thin by former President Barack Obama’s efforts within the region. And they argue Trump will be able to capitalise the relationships in the future, parlaying his warm ties with Asian leaders into major concessions on trade, military sales, and foreign policy.
“I made a lot of friends at the highest levels,” Trump said Tuesday as he attended the East Asia Summit, where leaders discuss a range of regional economic and security issues. Praising himself for “a tremendously successful trip,” he said things had gone well from the moment he walked off the plane.