Executive Briefings

Trump's Asia Trip Shows U.S. at Risk of Being Sidelined in the Region's Economic Future

For all of President Trump's efforts to build personal relations with leaders and to reassure allies during his first Asia trip, the most significant thing that has happened may have been what did not happen.

From Tokyo to Seoul to Beijing, the American president has been feted with maximum ceremonial honors - a "state visit-plus," the Chinese called it. Asian leaders listened politely to his demands that they accept what he considers fairer trade terms and that they buy more American goods.

Nowhere in Trump's tour, however, have any of those leaders entered into serious negotiations or made significant concessions.

"Quite frankly, in the grand scheme of a $300- to $500bn trade deficit, the things that have been achieved thus far are pretty small," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Beijing last week, referring to the U.S. trade deficit with China. "In terms of really getting at some of the fundamental elements behind why this imbalance exists, there's still a lot more work to do.”

Instead of offering concessions, both the United States' historical allies, Japan and South Korea, as well as China, its most serious Pacific rival, signaled that they had taken Trump at his word: His "America First" policy means the United States will become less and less a player in the fastest-growing and most dynamic region in the world.

That reality was underscored last week when trade ministers from the so-called TPP-11, the signatories to the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement minus the U.S., said at a meeting in Vietnam that they had agreed on how to revise the agreement to proceed without Washington.

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From Tokyo to Seoul to Beijing, the American president has been feted with maximum ceremonial honors - a "state visit-plus," the Chinese called it. Asian leaders listened politely to his demands that they accept what he considers fairer trade terms and that they buy more American goods.

Nowhere in Trump's tour, however, have any of those leaders entered into serious negotiations or made significant concessions.

"Quite frankly, in the grand scheme of a $300- to $500bn trade deficit, the things that have been achieved thus far are pretty small," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Beijing last week, referring to the U.S. trade deficit with China. "In terms of really getting at some of the fundamental elements behind why this imbalance exists, there's still a lot more work to do.”

Instead of offering concessions, both the United States' historical allies, Japan and South Korea, as well as China, its most serious Pacific rival, signaled that they had taken Trump at his word: His "America First" policy means the United States will become less and less a player in the fastest-growing and most dynamic region in the world.

That reality was underscored last week when trade ministers from the so-called TPP-11, the signatories to the Trans-Pacific Trade agreement minus the U.S., said at a meeting in Vietnam that they had agreed on how to revise the agreement to proceed without Washington.

Read Full Article