Trump affirms US ties with Philippines, ASEAN
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)