DANANG, Vietnam -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday delivered a strongly worded message on trade to Indo-Pacific countries, demanding trade relationships be fair and reciprocal. Trump said the U.S. will no longer tolerate chronic trade abuses under the multilateral trading system and would seek to make bilateral deals with every country in the region.
Trump was speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Danang, Vietnam, on the eve of Saturday's APEC summit.
He complained that while the U.S. and its private sector had played by the rules in international trade, many countries in the region had unfairly used state sponsorship to boost their industry and obtain free market access to the U.S. While the U.S. had adhered to the principles on intellectual property protection, other countries had engaged in product dumping, subsidizing goods, currency manipulation, and predatory industrial policies.
"They ignored the rules to gain advantage over those who followed the rules," Trump said, adding that he raised the issue openly with China's President Xi Jinping during his visit to Beijing prior to his arrival in Vietnam.
"[The U.S.] lowered or ended tariffs, reduced trade barriers, and allowed foreign goods to flow freely into our country. But while we lowered market barriers, other countries didn't open their markets to us. Funny."
Trump blamed previous U.S. administrations for failing to address these issues -- claiming that they caused "enormous trade deficits" on the U.S. side. He said the U.S. can "no longer tolerate these chronic trade abuses, and we will not tolerate them."
Nevertheless, Trump said he was seeking "renewed" and "robust trade relationships" with every Indo-Pacific nation on the basis of "fairness and recriprocity," adding that the current trade imbalance is "unacceptable."
By calling Asian leaders to make bilateral trade deals, Trump essentially ruled out U.S. participation in multilateral trade frameworks such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"What we will no longer do is enter into large agreements that tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty, and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible," he said.
Trump also called on Asia-Pacific leaders to stand united against North Korea. "The future of this region and its beautiful people must not be held hostage to a dictator's twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail."
He also seemed to make reference to Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea, saying that Indo-Pacific nations must not only deal decisively with transnational crimes, but also with "territorial expansion."
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