President Donald Trump is traveling to Asia – and the tone of his visit remains a mystery to those who will receive him.
(FinancialPress) — Trump‘s rogue nature casts a shadow of uncertainty over the region. Since taking office, his actions towards it have encompassed measures many have labeled as inflammatory – such as putting an end to the Trans Pacific Partnership to later turn his crosshairs towards another major trade deal in NAFTA, threatening to end the free-trade agreement in place with South Korea, and describing U.S. commercial and economic relationships with Asian nations as “horrible“.
With all of this, one can‘t help but wonder how Asian officials foresee his visit.
Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre in Singapore – a major advisor for regional governments and companies, said that they do so “with a certain amount of alarm, uncertainty and concern.“ She added that “the question on everyone’s mind is, what is it the United States is proposing?”
The culling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP for short), which had taken years to come agree to and had 12 nations involved, dissolved years of work the U.S. had put in with countries such as Vietnam, Australia and Japan. Aaron Connelly, researcher ad the Lowy Institute in Sydney, says that “without the TPP, there is no narrative of American economic partnership with Asia”.
That certainly is the landscape in which China is operating, as Trump‘s decision opened the playing field for the Asian giant. President Xi Jinping‘s mega trade project has been brought to the front and center as a way to revitalize trade in the region, using the historic silk road routes across the continent and beyond.
Trump‘s presence could go a long way in alleviating the doubts of his country‘s allies about his course, and it would be a grand chance to set a new roadmap for America‘s dealings with Asian. But experts are not expecting as much to come of it.
Connelly, for example, explained: “My view is it’s better that Trump spends as little time in Asia as possible. U.S. Asia policy under Trump hasn’t been nearly as bad as you would have expected from his campaign. But the more you involve him in policy, the higher the risk it will look more like his campaign.” Trump had famously threatened to place huge tariffs on China and to label the nation as a currency manipulator.
The trend began to be set on Monday, as the President spoke from the US Embassy in Tokyo, Japan to begin his tour. “The United States has suffered massive trade deficits with Japan for over 70 years. We want fair and open trade, but right now our trade with Japan is not fair and it’s not open … Right now, our trade with Japan is not free and it’s not reciprocal“, he said.