MANILA – What President Donald Trump would say to address increasing concerns among the ASEAN states about China’s growing influence was the focus of interest at the U.S.-ASEAN Summit held in Manila on Nov. 13. While Trump indicated that the U.S. attaches great importance to its relations with ASEAN, he failed to win the trust of the nations in the region.
Trump emphasized at the beginning of the meeting that “I am here to cooperate in promoting peace and security and realizing a truly free and open Indo-Pacific.”
So far Trump has failed to put forth a clear strategy for Asia and the Pacific. His announcement of the U.S.’s withdrawal from the TPP soon after his inauguration in January also incurred the distrust of certain ASEAN members.
At the summit, Trump indicated his intention to promote a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” He explained that “we want our partners in the region to be strong, independent, prosperous, in control of their own destinies, and satellites to no one.” This can hardly be said to be a clear vision of what concrete actions the U.S. will take in the future.
Trump also called for an “economic cooperation relationship based on fairness and reciprocity.” This can be taken to mean that the U.S. will push for its “America First” policy, advocated by Trump even before he became president, in its relationship with ASEAN. (Slightly abridged)