Trump Talks Tough on Trade
DANANG, Vietnam (AP) — Promising to put “America first” in his trade practices, President Donald Trump used a speech in Vietnam Friday to denounce multi-nation agreements embraced by the region and deliver what appeared to be a rebuke to China, railing against trade practices he says have put Americans out of work.
“From this day forward we will compete on a fair and equal basis,” Trump told a gathering of CEOs on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam. “We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore. I am always going to put America first.
It was a striking change of tone from the day before, in China, where Trump had taken a friendlier approach toward the country as he sought to establish a more balanced trade relationship.
At issue during the lead-up of the trip: Whether the president would have a formal sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump had said it was expected, but the White House later said a formal meeting was not planned due to scheduling conflicts. The two leaders shook hands and greeted each other before a dinner Friday night, according to video of the event.
In his speech, Trump told executives gathered in the coastal city of Danang that he was happy to enter into bilateral trading agreements with any of the nations in the Indo-Pacific region — but only if they are reciprocal and fair.
“What we will no longer do is enter into large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty, and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible,” Trump said.
As one of his first acts as president, Trump rejected the far-reaching Pacific Rim trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, disappointing many nations in the region, including the summit’s host, Vietnam.
Leaders of the 11 remaining TPP members, representing roughly 13.5 percent of the global economy, were scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the APEC summit to seek an agreement in principle that would not require U.S. involvement.
But the prospects of that deal appeared in doubt Friday, as a meeting of the leaders of 11 countries still involved in the pact was delayed. There was no word on whether they had given up reaching agreement in Danang or were still working toward an agreement on how to move forward without U.S. involvement.
Trump also took aim at what he described as abusive trade practices he said had “hurt many people in our country.” He described “jobs, factories and industries” being “stripped out of the United States and out of many countries” as a result.
Without singling out China by name, Trump argued the U.S. had adhered to World Trade Organization principles, only to be taken advantage of by counties that had ignored the rules and engaged in harmful practices such as product dumping, currency manipulation and government subsidizing of goods.
“We can no longer tolerate these chronic trade abuses and we will not tolerate them,” he said.
In the speech, Trump said he had spoken “openly and directly” with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit about “about China’s unfair trade practices and the enormous trade deficits they have produced with the United States.”
Trump said China’s trade surplus, which stood at $223 billion for the first 10 months of the year, was unacceptable, and repeated his language from Thursday when he said he did “not blame China” or any other country “for taking advantage of the United States on trade.”
But Trump went on to say that the U.S. would “no longer turn a blind eye to violations, cheating or economic aggression.”