Trump skips sum­mit ple­nary but says 12-day trip a suc­cess


MANILA (Reuters) – US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump skipped the ple­nary ses­sion of a sum­mit of East and South­east Asian lead­ers in Manila on Tues­day be­cause of sched­ul­ing delays, but he said his marathon trip to the re­gion had been a suc­cess.

Trump left for home from the Philip­pines af­ter a lunch with the other lead­ers, as meet­ings were run­ning about two hours be­hind sched­ule.

He told re­porters on Air Force One that he had de­liv­ered his pre­pared re­marks dur­ing the lunch in­stead of the sum­mit meet­ing. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son would at­tend the ple­nary ses­sion in his place, a se­nior White House of­fi­cial said.

Trump said his trip had re­sulted in at least $300 bil­lion, pos­si­bly triple that fig­ure, of deals be­ing agreed upon. He did not elab­o­rate.

“We’ve ex­plained that the United States is open for trade but we want re­cip­ro­cal, we want fair trade for the United States,” he said.

Trade and con­cern about pos­si­ble pro­tec­tion­ism un­der Trump’s “Amer­ica First” agenda have come up dur­ing his visit to the re­gion, which in­cluded stops in Ja­pan, South Korea, China, Viet­nam be­fore con­clud­ing in the Philip­pines.

Ear­lier in the day, Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau raised the plight of Ro­hingya refugees and extra-ju­di­cial killings in the Philip­pines at the sum­mit, sen­si­tive hu­man rights is­sues skirted by al­most all the oth­ers.

There was no pres­sure from Trump over the Philip­pines’ bloody war on drugs dur­ing a meet­ing on Mon­day with Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte on the side­lines of the sum­mit.

A joint state­ment af­ter the meet­ing said the two sides “un­der­scored that hu­man rights and the dig­nity of hu­man life are es­sen­tial, and agreed to con­tinue main­stream­ing the hu­man rights agenda in their na­tional pro­grams.”

How­ever, Trudeau said that dur­ing his con­ver­sa­tion with Duterte, he “men­tioned hu­man rights, rule of law and specif­i­cally extra-ju­di­cial killings as be­ing an is­sue that Canada is con­cerned with.”

“The pres­i­dent was re­cep­tive to my com­ments and it was through­out a very cor­dial and pos­i­tive ex­change,” Trudeau told a news con­fer­ence.

More than 3,900 push­ers and users have been killed in the war on drugs that Duterte de­clared when he took of­fice last year. His gov­ern­ment says the po­lice act in self-de­fense, but crit­ics say ex­e­cu­tions are tak­ing place with no ac­count­abil­ity.

Duterte cursed Trump’s pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama, last year for rais­ing con­cerns about the war on drugs and he sub­se­quently de­clared that he was break­ing with the United States, a close ally of the Philip­pines since World War II. Trump, by con­trast, said on Mon­day he had a “great re­la­tion­ship” with Duterte.

Trudeau said he also met Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and raised the plight of Ro­hingya refugees, al­though he did not men­tion the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity by name.

“This is a tremen­dous con­cern to Canada and to many, many coun­tries around the world,” he said.

The gov­ern­ment in mostly-Bud­dhist Myanmar re­gards the Ro­hingya as il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Bangladesh and does not rec­og­nize the term.

Over 600,000 Ro­hingya have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh since mil­i­tary clear­ance op­er­a­tions were launched in re­sponse to at­tacks by Ro­hingya mil­i­tants on Au­gust 25.

The plight of the Ro­hingya has brought out­rage from around the world and there have been calls for democ­racy cham­pion Suu Kyi to be stripped of the No­bel peace prize she won in 1991 be­cause she has not con­demned the mil­i­tary’s ac­tions.

Some coun­tries in the 10-mem­ber As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN), par­tic­u­larly Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity Malaysia, have voiced strong con­cern over the is­sue re­cently.

How­ever, in keep­ing with ASEAN’s prin­ci­ple of non-in­ter­fer­ence in each oth­ers’ in­ter­nal af­fairs, it ap­peared to have been put aside at the sum­mit, which brought South­east Asian na­tions to­gether with the United States, Ja­pan, China, In­dia, Aus­tralia and Canada.

(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

DON­ALD TRUMP boards Air Force One yes­ter­day, con­clud­ing his 12-day Asian trip by de­part­ing from Ni­noy Aquino In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Manila.

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