Trump de­clares trade ‘rules have changed’ as Asia trip con­cludes

Heads back to Wash­ing­ton af­ter 11-day, five na­tion visit; ‘I made a lot of friends at the high­est lev­els,’ Trump says

Financial Chronicle - - AROUND THE GLOBE - JUSTIN SINK & JENNIFER JA­COBS

PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump ended his swing through Asia, hail­ing progress to­ward his goal of re­duc­ing the US trade deficit.

Trump took off from Manila aboard Air Force One on Tues­day, skip­ping the fi­nal ses­sion of meet­ings hosted by the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions. The trip, which in­cluded stops in Ja­pan, South Korea, China and Viet­nam, brought Trump in con­tact with dozens of lead­ers, in­clud­ing the heads of Asia’s five big­gest economies and a brief en­counter 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 em­pha­siz­ing 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.

‘Tremen­dously Suc­cess­ful’

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. Prais­ing him­self for a “tremen­dously suc­cess­ful trip,” he said said things had gone well from the mo­ment he walked off the plane.

Nonethe­less, Trump left with­out at­tend­ing the ple­nary ses­sion of the East Asia Sum­mit, de­spite ear­lier ex­tend­ing his stay to in­clude what he called the “the most im­por­tant day” of the trip. The gath­er­ing pro­vides a plat­form for lead­ers from the broader re­gion to dis­cuss a range of eco­nomic and se­cu­rity is­sues.

The pres­i­dent re­turns to Wash­ing­ton fac­ing a bat­tle over tax re­form and more con­gres­sional hear­ings prob­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ties to Rus­sia.

“Ex­cited to be head­ing home to see the House pass a GREAT Tax Bill with the mid­dle class get­ting big TAX CUTS!” he wrote on Twit­ter.

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