US President Donald Trump has wrapped up a tour of Asia, saying that all countries that trade with the US “know that the rules have changed”.
“The United States has to be treated fairly and in a reciprocal fashion,” Trump tweeted from Manila, the final stop before he arrives back in Washington on Tuesday. “The massive TRADE deficits must go down quickly!” he added.
It was a theme Trump stressed repeatedly through a nearly two-week trip through Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, including during one-on-one meetings with the leaders of those nations. Trump insists that multibillion-dollar deficits that favour US trading partners will be reduced to zero, and that trade overall must be fair and mutually beneficial.
He commented shortly after arriving at his third and final summit of the trip, the annual East Asia Summit of leaders from throughout the region, although he mentioned an earlier summit in the tweet. He attended a gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Monday.
“Just arrived at #ASEAN50 in the Philippines for my final stop with World Leaders,” Trump said in an early tweet. “Will lead to FAIR TRADE DEALS, unlike the horror shows from past Administrations. Will then be leaving for D.C. Made many good friends!”
Among Trump’s newest friends in the region is Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whom Trump repeatedly praised and joked around with on Monday. Duterte has overseen a bloody crackdown on domestic drug dealing that has featured extrajudicial killings, earning him scorn from human rights advocates.
Trump did not publicly take Duterte to task for the crackdown. Instead, Trump said he and Duterte have “had a great relationship” and avoided questions about whether he would raise human rights concerns with the Filipino leader during a private meeting.
They later issued a joint statement saying they “underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs”.
In Manila for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference, and the subsequent East Asia Summit, Trump looked to strengthen ties with Pacific Rim allies, aiming to strike one-on-one trade deals rather than multinational trade agreements, and increase pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
He met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and highlighted their two nations’ “deeper and more comprehensive” ties, looking to strengthen a relationship that is vital to the US vision of an Indo-Pacific region that attempts to de-emphasise China’s influence.
He jointly met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with whom he had a contentious phone call last winter, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who hosted the president in Tokyo earlier in the trip. Trump raved about his accomplishments on his five-nation journey, particularly on trade and on North Korea, which the White House has suggested may be designated a state sponsor of terror.
Trump said he would wait until he was in Washington on Wednesday to elaborate with a “major statement” on those two topics, but hinted at progress while in Manila. “We’ve made some very big steps with regard to trade – far bigger than anything you know,” Trump told reporters, pointing to business deals forged between US and foreign companies.
Trump also said the trip had been “very fruitful” for the United States and pointed to the warm welcomes he had received in capitals such as Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing.
“It was red carpet like nobody, I think, has probably ever received,” Trump said. “And that really is a sign of respect, perhaps for me a little, but really for our country. And I’m really proud of that.”