President Donald Trump – Speech in VIETNAM at APEC Summit – Nov 9, 2017

President Donald Trump – Speech in VIETNAM at APEC Summit – Nov 9, 2017

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  • Clyde Duncan  On November 13, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    APEC Signals USA Waning Influence in Asia

    M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline

    If the APEC forum ever provided a testing ground to estimate how far the United States of America can resuscitate American power in Asia, the summit meeting in Da Nang signals that it is going to be a long haul, if at all.

    The point is, as much as the USA emphasizes its military posturing, the battle for influence in Asia will rise and fall on economics instead.

    The USA lost face badly by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

    APEC’s defining mission in Da Nang was to hold the line on an open trading system. Asia’s economic dynamism is vitally dependent on external environment.

    Peter Drysdale, Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University, wrote last week:

    “Confidence in the global trading system is important to Asia. It has underpinned Asian interdependence, economic prosperity and political security in the past and it will continue to do so in the future. Thus, in guarding these strategic global interests, Asia has a new and critical role to play. APEC is the theatre in which the action must begin.”

    From this perspective, when USA President Donald Trump addressed the APEC summit on Friday, it was the wrong speech at the wrong place. Trump threatened that the USA will no longer tolerate “chronic trade abuses”, complained about trade imbalances, alleged that free trade has cost millions of American jobs, equated “mutual respect and mutual benefit” with “reciprocal trade” and railed against the World Trade Organization. Trump slammed the door shut on regional free trade agreements. It was transactional diplomacy writ large.

    Yet Asian leaders assert the priority of multilateral solutions to global trading problems. With the TPP a non-starter, the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is the only strategy ahead – and the USA isn’t even at the table.

    On the contrary, it couldn’t have been lost on the Asian audience that the speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which followed immediately after Trump’s, presented a starkly different vision of the future of global trade.

    President Xi asserted that globalization is irreversible and espoused China’s credentials as the new champion of world trade.

    “We should support the multilateral trading regime and practise open regionalism to allow developing members to benefit more from international trade and investment,” Xi urged. He spoke about the digital economy, quantum science, artificial intelligence, etc. outlining a vision of the future that is connected, and comprehensive.

    By the way, even as Xi was addressing the APEC summit, China announced historic plans to ease limits on foreign ownership of financial services groups.

    The FT reported that Beijing proposes to relax or eliminate ownership limits in commercial banking, securities, futures, asset management and insurance.

    China has used joint venture requirements and ownership caps in a broad range of industries to protect domestic groups from competition and induce sharing of foreign technology and management expertise with local partners.

    Xi said in his speech, “In the next 15 years, China will have an even larger market and more comprehensive development. It is estimated that China will import US$24 trillion worth of goods, attract US$2 trillion inbound direct investment and make US$2 trillion of outbound investment.”

    By comparison, Trump is forever raising the bar for partnership. When three ASEAN prime ministers – Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore – visited Washington recently, Trump celebrated the events as shopping transactions.
    Asians make gifts as material presentations of friendship, but Trump is blasé and flaunts it as triumph for ‘America First’.

    During Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s visit, Khazanah Nasional (Malaysian government’s sovereign wealth fund) and the Employees Provident Fund (Malaysia’s national pension fund) announced several billion dollars of investments in equity and infrastructure projects in the USA; Malaysia Airlines pledged to explore options for acquiring more Boeing jetliners and General Electric engines to the tune of US$10 billion.

    Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha promised that his country’s military would acquire Blackhawk and Lakota helicopters, a Cobra gunship, Harpoon missiles and F-16 fighter jet upgrades to be topped off with 20 new Boeing jetliners for Thai Airways. Siam Cement Group agreed to purchase 155,000 tonnes of coal to ease the plight of USA workers in the much-bandied ‘Rust Belt’, while Thai petroleum company PTT agreed to invest in shale gas factories in Ohio. Prayut and Trump also signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate an estimated US$6 billion worth of investments that will purportedly generate more than 8,000 jobs in the USA.

    Singapore showcased its purchase of 39 aircraft from the Boeing Corporation with the attached tagline of generating 7,000 jobs in the continental United States of America. At the televised signing ceremony, Trump smiled broadly and jabbed jocularly at the Boeing CEO, uttering very audibly to the television cameras “That’s jobs, American jobs, otherwise don’t sign!”

    Here’s the Catch:

    Trump’s 11-day Asian tour may only have reinforced the perception of Southeast Asian elites that the USA is losing strategic ground to China. Simply put, the efficacy of an Asian strategy predicated primarily on military strength is uncertain and unsustainable.

    The APEC Declaration on Saturday testifies that Xi’s speech was in sync with the spirit of the times, while Trump stuck out as sound and fury signifying nothing.

    At a time when Chinese tech giants are shrewdly positioning themselves to capitalize on an expected boom in ASEAN’s digital economy in the coming decade, when the ‘One Belt, One Road’ is steadily marching ahead, underwriting a network of trade and investment with China at its centre and creating a new global supply chain, the regional states are palpably experiencing the limits of USA power.

    To compound matters, when Trump celebrates trade deals worth $253 billion with China, Asians must wonder that all roads ultimately lead to Beijing.

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 13, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    “Veterans Day Hello,” says the subject line from an email we got after we signed off last Friday with “Happy Armistice Day.”

    “There are still a few of us left in ‘Agora World’ that remember that Veterans Day was originally titled ‘Armistice Day.’

    There are also a number of us who remember the phrase ‘Hey, Mr. Hershey, stick to your chocolate and leave us alone,’ or, in simpler language ………..… ‘S***, I’ve been drafted.’

    “Love The 5.”

    The 5: Yes, we’re old school that way.

    Wikipedia tells us the switch came in 1954. We choose to hark back to a time before Truman’s “wise men” afflicted us in the late 1940s with the national security state and permanent mobilization for war.

    Heck, it’s generational; my parents supported Taft for the Republican presidential nomination in 1952.

    So if you’re wondering why we’re harping on the gargantuan cost of the “war on terror,” that’s part of where we’re coming from.

    Perhaps our single favorite quotation from the Founders is this one by James Madison in 1795; we’ve cited it here in The 5 once before…

    Of all the enemies to public liberty, WAR IS, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

    Here in the second decade of the 21st century, is there any doubt?

    Best regards,

    Dave Gonigam
    The 5 Min. Forecast

    Wait a minute, while we are on about debt and what it will do to our freedom ….

    How about the 20-Trillion-Dollar-Debt – wasn’t Iraqi oil revenue going to pay for rebuilding Iraq?

    Oh well …

    – The 5

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 13, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Donald Trump’s Asia Tour Leaves Observers Perplexed

    Aleem Maqbool | BBC News

    First Donald Trump insulted North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, then, hours later, said he hoped the two could be friends in the future.

    It is exactly the kind of contradiction that has typified his five-nation tour of Asia and left many observers scratching their heads. But what can we decipher about the USA president’s approach?

    Donald Trump is likely to return home and say he has had a great trip to Asia.

    There are some in the region who may agree that it has been of massive benefit, but not necessarily to the United States of America.

    The US president has certainly been treated like a king everywhere he has gone, and it is obvious that he loves being feted and flattered – perhaps especially now, given all the criticism back home.

    In a foreign land, it is clear that if you treat him like royalty, he will behave like a polite guest. He has steered clear of nasty, uncomfortable things like human rights and democracy.

    Of course, we know that it does not take much for the statesmanlike conduct to fall away if the bear is poked.

    When North Korea taunted the USA president, calling him again, as it has done in the past, a dotard, he could not help but react, suggesting Kim Jong-un was “short and fat”.

    It may just be that the other leaders of this region are immaculate hosts, but there has been a strong sense during his trip that they have worked out not only how to avoid provoking him, but precisely how to disarm him: THROUGH FLATTERY.

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Donald Trump was his “favourite guy” to play golf with.

    South Korea’s President Moon told the US president he was “already making America Great”, and at the National Assembly in Seoul he was introduced as “Leader of the World”.

    ONE-WAY TRAFFIC

    But after the splendour of his welcomes, he stood next to the Vietnamese president and did not talk about freedom of speech and the imprisonment of activists and bloggers.

    In Beijing, he stood next to President Xi Jinping without a single word of criticism.

    But his visit to China stands out to me as the most telling leg of this trip. It was the one place where things went a little differently for Mr Trump.

    Yes, there was an extraordinary welcome laid on for him, and pomp and ceremony that rivalled – even outdid – anywhere else.

    But it was not President Xi with gushing compliments about his guest, but the other way around.

    Mr Trump played a video of his granddaughter singing in Mandarin, he called Xi Jinping “a very special man” and told the Chinese president his “people were very proud of him”.

    There was little in the way of personal praise that came back though. In Beijing, there was no chance of Donald Trump being called the “Leader of the World”.

    The USA president may point to the next part of his trip, in Da Nang, Vietnam, when he was at his most vociferous, and say that that is where he told President Xi who was boss.

    At the APEC summit, without naming China specifically, he criticised those in the region who had engaged in unfair trading practices and said that America would no longer be taken advantage of.

    His speech was a stream of bombastic soundbites that will allow him to go back to the USA and say he is following through on his vision of “America First”.

    STEPPING UP

    But what was fascinating was what followed. A little later, President Xi took to the same stage at the summit.

    He talked of the future, of innovation, technology, climate change and of a vision of the region moving forward together; in the past, the very talking points that might have been expected of a USA president.

    That, perhaps, is the flaw of “America First”. It may be a pragmatic, transactional approach to foreign policy. There is no time wasted on trying to impart American values, or improve societies. It is all about the deal.

    But that allows others to assume the leadership role, and for many in this region the concern is that that can only mean a more dominant, self-confident, even arrogant China.

    The kind observer might suggest Mr Trump understands that a publicly confrontational approach goes down badly with Beijing, but that behind the smiles tough talking is going on.

    Others may just find his approach perplexing – especially when it comes to his offer to mediate in the South China Sea dispute.

    Even though the USA has taken no position in the row, it has insisted on the right to freedom of navigation in the face of Chinese displeasure.

    Strategically, there does not appear to be any circumstance under which the USA would want China to militarily dominate this particular theatre.

    But is President Trump suggesting that compromise is possible? Or is it another example of Trump’s America abandoning the country’s traditional influence and priorities in this region?

    We do know that China cannot come close to matching the USA in terms of military might. But is that fact enough to ensure that America retains its sphere of influence?

    Or is “America First”, and indeed this tour of Asia, ushering in an era of “China Stepping Up”?

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 13, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    Susan Rice: Trump Is Making China Great Again

    Susan E. Rice | The New York Times

    President Trump’s recently concluded trip to Asia had the potential to advance important American security and economic interests.

    Played correctly, his ambitious five-country, 12-day trip could have steadied his administration’s rocky start in this vital region. Instead, it left the United States of America more isolated and in retreat, handing leadership of the newly christened “Indo-Pacific” to China on a silver platter.

    The trip began with solid performances in Japan and Korea, where Mr. Trump’s relatively measured words left key allies reassured of the United States’ commitment to their security. The president largely shelved his belligerent trade rhetoric, called for allies to buy more American military hardware and reopened the door to diplomacy with North Korea.

    Weather curtailed his surprise trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, but that may have been a blessing, since hostile words might have prompted hostile action.

    But in China, the wheels began to come off his diplomatic bus. The Chinese leadership played President Trump like a fiddle, catering to his insatiable ego and substituting pomp and circumstance for substance.

    China always prefers to couch state visits in ceremony rather than compromise on policy. This approach seemed to suit President Trump just fine, as he welcomed a rote recitation of China’s longstanding rejection of a nuclear North Korea and failed to extract new concessions or promises.

    Trump also settled for the announcement of $250 billion in trade and investment agreements, many of which are non-binding and, in the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, “pretty small.” Missing were firm deals to improve market access or reduce technology-sharing requirements for American companies seeking to do business in China.

    Mr. Trump showered President Xi Jinping of China with embarrassingly fawning accolades, calling him “a very special man” and stressing that “my feeling towards you is an incredibly warm one.” He blamed his predecessors rather than China for our huge trade deficits and hailed Mr. Xi’s consolidation of authoritarian power.

    Such scenes of an American president kowtowing in China to a Chinese president sent chills down the spines of Asia experts and United States allies who have relied on America to balance and sometimes counter an increasingly assertive China.

    Their collective dismay was only heightened by Mr. Trump’s failure to mention publicly any concerns about the disputed South China Sea or even to insist that the American press be allowed to ask the leaders questions.

    According to Mr. Tillerson, these stunning displays of Trumpian affection for Mr. Xi were complemented by more concrete discussions behind closed doors. With the notable exception of climate change, the administration wisely seems to have committed to continue cooperation with China in several key areas. But intensive diplomacy in the run-up to these critical leader-level meetings could have yielded real results to advance mutual interests and bypass the Chinese penchant for show over substance.

    This time, it is unclear whether such diplomacy was undertaken, and the result is that no new policy ground appears to have been broken.

    By contrast, President Barack Obama sent his national security advisers to China before summit meetings. In 2014, we agreed on military confidence-building measures, cooperation to fight Ebola, extended visa validity and a historic United States-China deal on climate change, which led to the Paris Agreement.

    In 2015, we secured agreement from China to curtail cybertheft of United States intellectual property for commercial gain and to cooperate on development and global health security.

    In 2016, China stepped up its commitment to crack down on fentanyl precursors, support United Nations peacekeeping and strengthen nuclear security.

    President Trump’s last stops in Vietnam and the Philippines proved the most problematic. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting, he delivered a vitriolic, nationalistic speech on trade that made the United States look angry and rendered us more isolated. He made no progress toward the bilateral trade agreements he says he wants, to replace multilateral deals.

    Instead, the leaders of the 11 remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership countries announced a framework to remake their deal without the United States, leaving America outside the largest trade agreement in the world — one that the United States had previously championed to solidify its economic and strategic leadership in the region.

    Notably, President Xi followed Mr. Trump’s hostile speech with a paean to open markets, fair commerce and the benefits of globalization, ideas that might have been cribbed from previous American presidents.

    Finally, the president’s always fragile self-discipline evaporated with his outlandish tweets over the weekend, including some about Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that undercut his sober message in Seoul.

    So, too, Mr. Trump’s hubristic offer late in his trip to mediate China’s disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea, his failure to mention human rights and, above all, his disturbing defense of Vladimir Putin’s lies about meddling in our election, combined with his insulting the United States intelligence community on foreign soil, overwhelmed any effort to assert credible American leadership.

    President Trump’s lighthearted embrace of a self-proclaimed killer, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, was the nadir of a high-stakes trip that set back American leadership in Asia.

    But it was, perhaps, the perfect if unintended coda to the president’s “Make China Great Again” tour.

    Susan E. Rice is former USA National Security Advisor and U.N. Ambassador

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