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What Did President Trump Accomplish With His Asia Trip?

14 November 2017

Ive been in East Asia for the past few weeks interviewing officials and experts in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

"We now see that the commitment to a regional trade agreement, and the willingness to lead towards that outcome, was in fact broad and local". There's no evidence Trump was successful at lowering big trade barriers, though. But the highlight of the visit was a meal which proved that the Donald had little taste for his host nation's acclaimed foods but needed a large cheeseburger of USA beef and cheese to keep him going while Abe looked on, bemused. "As Singapore Prime Minister Lee pointed out, the reason bilateral trade deals are so attractive for the U.S., is precisely why no one will want to enter into one with the United States of America: because the US could bully anyone on a bilateral basis", said the Cabinet member who did not want to be named.

China did even better in flattering him with a display of pomp which would give credit to an ancient empire, with Xi Jinping as emperor - an emperor whose growing power is sending tremors throughout the rest of Asia.

HORSLEY: Beyond those pleasant memories, though, Trump may not be coming home with much. And then we leave at about 3 o'clock.

A Chinese decision to ease foreign access to financial markets appears to have had no direct connection to the visit.

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"I also have come here to this peninsula to deliver a message directly to the leader of the North Korean dictatorship: The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer". After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens?

"I remain concerned about China's efforts to build and militarise outposts in the South China Sea".

Trump also met with Tran Dai Quang, president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, in Danang, a city that holds a special significance for both nations.

"From this day forward we will compete on a fair and equal basis", the president said. Legitimate US complaints could be ignored. Trump arrived in Tokyo to an enthusiastic welcome from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who courted the American leader with golf, hamburgers and “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen.” In South Korea, where there were considerable worries that Trump would inflame tensions with Pyongyang, the presidents speech to the South Korean National Assembly was stern but measured - and largely well received by analysts in Seoul.

In marking his first anniversary, Trump has pleasantly surprised many who a year ago were deeply anxious about a trade war between the two countries given his harsh campaign rhetoric. Meanwhile the remaining nine members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, following withdrawal of the U.S., humiliated Trump by announcing the revival of the plan, albeit under a slightly altered name.

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He has cut a more restrained figure, shown that he can stick, for the most part, to the script, and managed to avoid any major diplomatic incidents, not least the fate of the last U.S. leader (George HW Bush) to spend this length of time in the region - vomiting on the Japanese prime minister. Trump proclaimed himself a potential mediator in South China Sea disputes. The only person who seemed to take it seriously was the Philippines' neophyte foreign minister Alan Peter Cayetano who was quoted saying "We welcome that offer". USA businesses signed around $250 billion dollars worth of deals during Trump's Beijing visit, but many of those were nonbinding.

That attitude often seems missing among US diplomats, more eager to please those in foreign nations than to do right by Americans.

"President Xi I think is going to be a tremendous help ..."

Standing alongside Xi Jinping, who is now presiding over China's most serious crackdown on human rights in decades, in whose state's custody a Nobel peace laureate died this summer, and whose widow remains missing, Donald Trump opted not to mention human rights. It is long past time for Americans to stop playing the patsy. Plans were announced for the visit of a US aircraft carrier to Vietnam in 2018, the first such call since the war. That would spell the death of United States influence in the region.

HORSLEY: It's been 25 years since a US president made such an extended journey outside the United States.

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