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Leaders at the East Asia Summit, which U.S. President Donald Trump skipped, gather for a photo in Manila on Nov. 14.   © Reuters
Trump's Asian Visit

A post-American Asia looms larger on the horizon

Trump's shift away from multilateral free trade removes key element of US role

| China

Donald Trump's admirably long 12-day Asia trip was a critical opportunity to define his Asia policy, his vision of the future. Unfortunately, both the good and bad news is that he succeeded.

Trump's over-arching theme of "a free and open Indo-Pacific" was shoplifted from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has made it a centerpiece of his foreign policy. But for Abe, the meaning of that message is upholding and updating a rules-based order that has facilitated Asia's economic success over the past half century. For Trump, the theme is paired with "America First" -- blowing up the rules-based order the U.S. has been instrumental in creating and enforcing, and replacing it with old-fashioned inter-nation rivalry. Yet Trump appears unaware of that inherent contradiction.

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