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President Trump Delivers Warning To Asia-Pacific Leaders Regarding Trade

Nov 10, 2017
Originally published on November 10, 2017 11:18 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Trump delivered a warning to Asia Pacific leaders today. The United States is tired of unbalanced trade.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore.

SIEGEL: The president was speaking at an international summit in Vietnam, but his remarks had a strong nationalistic flavor. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Trump has spent the last week traveling in Asia. But his speech today in Vietnam was his first attempt to spell out a larger vision for the region.

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TRUMP: Today I am here to offer a renewed partnership with America, to work together to strengthen the bonds of friendship and commerce between all of the nations of the Indo-Pacific and together to promote our prosperity and security.

HORSLEY: The president highlighted the remarkable progress countries like Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea have made in recent decades in pulling their people out of poverty.

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TRUMP: What the countries and economies represented here today have built in this part of the world is nothing short of miraculous.

HORSLEY: But for the president who often views international economics as a zero-sum game, much of that progress has come at the expense of the United States. Trump complains that while the U.S. opened its markets to foreign competition, other countries did not reciprocate. And he says America's domestic industries suffered as a result.

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TRUMP: I wish previous administrations in my country saw what was happening and did something about it. They did not, but I will.

HORSLEY: Trump promised a crackdown on countries that subsidize state-owned enterprises, steal intellectual property or force American firms to share technology as the price of doing business. One of Trump's first actions as president was to withdraw the U.S. from a big Asia Pacific trade deal known as TPP that the Obama administration spent years negotiating. At home, supporters cheered the move. But Matthew Goodman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says it left leaders in Asia wondering about America's staying power in the region.

MATTHEW GOODMAN: The withdrawal from TPP has left a big vacuum, and the region is looking for something from President Trump to fill that vacuum. Otherwise I think China and others are going to move on.

HORSLEY: Trump says he's willing to hold trade talks one-on-one with other countries, but he won't sign on to any multinational agreements. Amy Searight, a former Asia specialist at the Pentagon and the State Department, says that's worrisome to smaller countries that rely on international deals to avoid being pushed around.

AMY SEARIGHT: You know, Southeast Asia - there aren't many regions in the world that are more committed to multilateralism and using multilateral frameworks to engage each other and powerful neighbors.

HORSLEY: Of course their most powerful neighbor is China, a country that's more than happy to fill any void left by the United States. Chinese President Xi Jinping used his own speech in Vietnam today to voice support for multilateral trade deals, and he described globalization as an irreversible trend. After meeting with Trump in Beijing yesterday, Xi said through an interpreter, this doesn't have to be a showdown.

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PRESIDENT XI JINPING: (Through interpreter) As I said to the president, the Pacific Ocean is big enough to accommodate both China and the United States.

HORSLEY: Still, the White House seems alert to the possibility of being crowded out. At the last minute, Trump added an extra day to his already lengthy Asia trip in order to attend another international summit meeting in the Philippines. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Da Nang, Vietnam.

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