Trump, Xi Offer Asia Business Leaders Divergent Paths

  • VOA News

    November 11, 2017 08:01

    The leaders of the United States and China offered starkly contrasting views of the direction for trade in Asia in separate speeches Friday to regional business leaders.

    U.S. President Donald Trump told the APEC CEO Summit that he is willing to make bilateral trade agreements with any country in the Indo-Pacific region, but he firmly rejected multinational deals such as the 12 nation Trans Pacific Partnership, which was quickly abandoned in the first days of his administration.

    "I will make bilateral trade agreements with any Indo-Pacific nation that wants to be our partner and that will abide by the principles of fair and reciprocal trade," Trump said. "What we will no longer do is enter into large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty, and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible."

    The U.S. president said that in the past when his country "lowered market barriers, other countries didn't open their markets to us."

    From now on, however, Trump warned the United States will, "expect that our partners will faithfully follow the rules. We expect that markets will be open to an equal degree on both sides and that private investment, not government planners, will direct investment."

    But making that happen is something that is easier said than done. China has already shown that it has no intention of playing by the rules, said Fraser Howie, co-author of the book "Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China's Extraordinary Rise."

    "China has been in WTO terms simply much sharper and smarter than the Americans," Howie said. "While the Americans went in with good faith thinking the Chinese would change and whatever, the Chinese never had any intention of changing."

    Howie added that trade and access issues are difficult and sophisticated, and so far Trump has a poor track record when it comes to follow through, be it his travel ban, the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, health care or tax policy.

    "Yes you're going to get tough on them, but how do you get tough without penalizing them," he said. He added, "how can China be penalized when Xi Jinping is your best mate? It doesn't make any sense."  

    U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping attend a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on Nov. 9, 2017. /Reuters

    ◆ Chinese Contrast

    Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose country's rise has been driven greatly by large-scale government planning, immediately followed Trump on the stage in Danang.

    Xi embraced the multilateral concept, in particular calling for support for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which would harmonize regional and bilateral economic pacts.

    China was left out of the TPP, which was led by the United States and Japan, and was meant in great part as a bulwark against China's strategic ambitions.

    Xi also termed globalization an irreversible trend, but said the world must work to make it more balanced and inclusive.

    The speeches came just hours after Trump left China where he and Xi met several times Wednesday and Thursday.

    In Beijing Thursday, the U.S. president had struck a markedly softer tone than in the past on touchy subjects such as North Korea and trade saying he had an "incredibly warm" feeling for Xi.

    Trump noted the U.S. must change its policy. "It's too bad that past administrations allowed it go get so far out of kilter," he said. "But we'll make it fair, and it will be tremendous for both of us."

    The Chinese leader said Beijing's relationship with Washington "now stands at a new starting point" and vowed to "enhance communication and cooperation on the nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula" and other issues.

    "For China and the United States, cooperation is the only viable choice, and win-win cooperation can take us to a better future," said the Chinese president.

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