US President Donald Trump set out a strong message on trade at a meeting of Asia-Pacific countries in Vietnam on Friday, saying the United States could no longer tolerate chronic trade abuses and would insist on fair and equal policies.
Trump said the United States was ready to make a bilateral deal with any country in the Indo-Pacific region, but only on the basis of “mutual respect and mutual benefit”.”When the United States enters into a trading relationship with other countries or other peoples, we will from now on expect that our partners will faithfully follow the rules,” he said in the seaside resort of Danang.
“We expect that markets will be open to an equal degree on both sides and that private investment, not government planners, will direct investment,” he said in a speech ahead of a summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC leaders. Trump arrived in Vietnam from China on the fourth leg of a 12-day trip to Asia.
Redressing the balance of trade between Asia and the United States is at the centre of Trump’s “America First” policy he says will protect US workers. The difference between Trump’s and China’s approaches was made more stark by comments in a later speech from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said globalization was an irreversible trend and voiced support for multilateral trade deals.
While China has by far the biggest trade surplus with the United States, Vietnam is also on the list of those surpluses the Trump administration seeks to reduce. APEC, which has long championed free trade, has itself been convulsed by the changes under Trump.
Since Trump abandoned the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP trade deal early in his presidency, the remaining 11 members have struggled to build momentum to keep it alive.
Leaders of TPP countries are due to meet on Friday after talks among ministers ended in confusion on Thursday with Japan’s economy minister saying that they “agree in principle” and his Canadian counterpart saying that was not true.