Trump af­firms US ties with Philip­pines, ASEAN

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL - EL­LIE ABEN

MANILA: US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Mon­day af­firmed Wash­ing­ton’s com­mit­ment to forg­ing closer ties with South­east Asian na­tions, in­clud­ing the Philip­pines.

This made clear Amer­ica’s po­si­tion on is­sues af­fect­ing the re­gion, par­tic­u­larly con­cern­ing se­cu­rity, trade and econ­omy.

Trump is on a three-day visit in Manila to at­tend the 31st As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) Sum­mit and Re­lated Meet­ings on Nov. 13-14.

The US pres­i­dent had a bi­lat­eral meet­ing on Sun­day with Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte. He also at­tended the 5th US-ASEAN Sum­mit Com­mem­o­ra­tion and the 40thanniver­sary ASEAN-US di­a­logue re­la­tions.

Dur­ing their talk, Trump and Duterte af­firmed the strong re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Philip­pines and the US, pres­i­den­tial spokesman Harry Roque said. It was the first for­mal meet­ing be­tween the two heads of state since they as­sumed of­fice last year.

Roque said Duterte, how­ever, did ac­knowl­edge that there were very sour points in the re­la­tion­ship. “And the sour points were state­ments made by for­mer Pres­i­dent (Barack) Obama on the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Duterte. I think Pres­i­dent Trump ad­dressed this by re­as­sur­ing the Philip­pine pres­i­dent that he has al­ways been an ally of the Philip­pine pres­i­dent since he was elected into of­fice.”

In the 40-minute dis­cus­sion, the hu­man rights is­sue was not raised, Roque said. But it was Duterte who brought up the sub­ject of the drug men­ace in the Philip­pines.

“The US pres­i­dent ap­peared sym­pa­thetic and did not have any of­fi­cial po­si­tion on the mat­ter but was merely nod­ding his head, in­di­cat­ing that he un­der­stood the do­mes­tic prob­lem that we face on drugs,” Roque said.

Duterte like­wise thanked Trump for the US as­sis­tance in quelling the five-month Marawi con­flict. The Philip­pine pres­i­dent made it clear that deal­ing with ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism is among the gov­ern­ment’s pri­or­i­ties.

On the econ­omy, the Philip­pines ex­pressed ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the Gen­er­al­ized Sys­tem of Pref­er­ences and sug­gested that the free- trade agree­ment also be con­cluded be­tween the US and the Philip­pines. Roque said the US ob­served that the Busi­ness Process Out­sourc­ing in­dus­try had be­come very im­por­tant in the Philip­pines, promis­ing to find ways to re­duce the trade sur­plus be­tween the two na­tions.

He added that the US would try to work out some­thing to re­duce the deficit of trade be­tween the Philip­pines and China.

On im­prov­ing trade re­la­tions, Roque said Pres­i­dent Trump sin­gled out the is­sue of tar­iffs be­ing im­posed on US au­to­mo­biles while such tar­iffs are not be­ing im­posed on Ja­panese cars.

The Palace of­fi­cial de­scribed the meet­ing be­tween the two lead­ers as “frank.”

“Pres­i­dent Trump specif­i­cally said that he has al­ways been a friend of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion un­like the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions of the United States,” he added.

Mean­while, dur­ing the US-ASEAN Sum­mit, Trump said Wash­ing­ton re­mained com­mit­ted to ASEAN’s cen­tral role as a re­gional fo­rum for to­tal co­op­er­a­tion.

He said the diplo­matic part­ner­ship would be­come the ve­hi­cle for ad­vanc­ing the se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity of Amer­i­cans and Indo-Pa­cific na­tions.

Trump noted that na­tions in the re­gion had built strong so­ci­eties, ro­bust economies, and vi­brant com­mu­ni­ties over sev­eral decades.

The US pres­i­dent said his coun­try had been mov­ing ahead bril­liantly on an eco­nomic ba­sis since the US elec­tions in Novem­ber last year. He said Amer­ica’s bet­ter eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ben­e­fits the ASEAN as a re­gion.

“So we want our part­ners in the re­gion to be strong, in­de­pen­dent and pros­per­ous. In con­trol of their own des­tinies and satel­lites to no one. These are the prin­ci­ples be­hind our vi­sion for a free and open Indo-Pa­cific,” Trump said.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ges­tures be­side Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte as they hold a bi­lat­eral meet­ing on the side­lines of the 31st As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) Sum­mit and Re­lated Meet­ings at the Philip­pine In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Manila on Mon­day. (AP)

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