Trump Leaves APEC, Arrives in Hanoi

U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, Saturday evening for a state banquet, followed by a day of meetings with Vietnamese leaders.

He has been in Danang, where he attended the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, one of several such events during his five-country Asian tour.

At the close of the meeting Saturday, the 21 member nations issued a statement expressing support for free trade and closer regional ties, without any mention of Trump’s “America First” doctrine.

WATCH: Leaders of US and China Offer Asia Business Leaders Divergent Paths

​Two views on trade

On Friday, Trump and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, offered starkly contrasting views of the direction for trade in Asia in separate speeches to regional business leaders

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 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.

​Not playing by the rules

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 reform or tax policy.

“Yes you’re going to get tough on them, but how do get tough without penalizing them,” Howie said, adding, “how can China be penalized when Xi Jinping is your best mate? It doesn’t make any sense.”

 

WATCH: Despite Tough US Talk on Trade, Experts See Greater Trade Opportunities

President Xi, 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 on Wednesday and Thursday.

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