The entire inaugural address of President Donald Trump emphasized his posture of giving top priority to U.S. national interests.
It goes without saying that as a politician, he should think of the interests of America and its people first, but the question is how will he achieve this. Chanting the slogan “Make America Great Again” to excite his supporters should have ended with the election campaign.
America is a superpower whether it likes it or not, so how is it going to interact with the world? It is particularly disappointing that the speech did not spell out a clear policy.
Will the United States even abandon freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and the other universal values it has championed so far? Any doubts about this could trigger the collapse of the order for peace and stability and plunge the world into chaos.
For the U.S. to be respected and revered both at home and abroad as a strong power, Trump needs to convey his principles and expound on his philosophy as the leader of a superpower.
The international order is facing unprecedentedly serious threats, one of which is the proliferation of violent radicalism exemplified by the Islamic State (IS). Russia has violated the territory of a neighboring country, and China is building military facilities in the South China Sea. They are prepared to defy international rules in their attempts to change the status quo by force. How will the U.S. deal with this?
We certainly have no intention to impose this responsibility on the U.S. due to the relative weakening of its power. Strengthening cooperation with Japan and other U.S. allies will be important. That is precisely why the new administration needs to present its policy on engagement with the international community at an early date.
As feared earlier, the Trump administration has announced changes in U.S. trade policies, including withdrawal from the TPP and renegotiation of NAFTA.
We cannot help being disappointed that the inaugural address did not show any change in Trump’s failure to understand the significance of free trade and his hostility toward U.S. trading partners. He continues to adhere to the one-sided view that, “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry.”
U.S.-led globalization after the end of the Cold War has resulted in many American companies moving their production lines overseas in search of cheap labor. There is no denying that this has contributed to the economic growth of China and other newly emerging countries.
However, it must not be forgotten that this has also contributed to U.S. economic growth. Imports of cheap and high-quality products have enriched American lives. Calling for “buying American and hiring American” without any regard for economic ties with other countries is the worst form of populism.
If the TPP agreement fails to take effect due to the U.S.’s withdrawal, the foundation of Japan’s growth strategy will collapse. Japan should strengthen cooperation with the other TPP participants and persevere in persuading the U.S. to change its mind.
In this process, the U.S. needs to be convinced that its withdrawal from the TPP will not really benefit the U.S. economy. For example, the collapse of the TPP would hurt U.S. agriculture, which is hoping to expand exports to Japan.
Less business opportunities in Asia will mean China’s stronger presence in the region, a situation Trump is averse to.
We take note of the fact that Trump has singled out North Korea and mentioned missile defense in his basic policies. But how much importance will he give to the Asia-Pacific region? Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should communicate with him on the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance and on world strategy as soon as possible through a summit meeting. (Abridged)