The President returned to the White House on Wednesday, declaring his administration’s epic 12-day, 5-country Asia trip a “tremendous success”.
President Trump visited Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines over the course of two weeks, where he attended three major international summits and spoke one-on-one with more than half a dozen leaders. Particularly high on the agenda were the issues of bilateral trade and global security, including the North Korean nuclear program and Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea.
Although the mainstream media seemed to think that Japanese fish food and a bottle of mineral water were the most salient aspects of Mr. Trump’s trip, the President focused on progress made with trade and in securing bilateral commercial deals. He apparently informed America’s Asian trade partners that the “rules have changed” and that the United States now expects far better trading conditions.
As he departed the Philippines for Washington, President Trump told reporters it had been a “really great 12 days”. He also added that in terms of trade, Asian partners will be “treating us much differently than before”. “I think the fruits of our labor are going to be incredible,” he said, “whether it’s security of our nations, whether it’s security of the world or whether it’s trade.”
In Vietnam, the President participated in several APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meetings in Danang and met with Vietnamese President Trần Đại Quang as well as with other government officials in Hanoi. In the Philippines, Mr. Trump attended a gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) trading bloc, as well as the East Asian Summit (EAS). He also met with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, with whom he appears to have a far better relationship than former President Barack Obama. Last September, Mr. Duterte famously referred to Mr. Obama as “a son of a whore”.
It’s been more than two decades since an American president completed such an extensive tour outside of the United States. The last such occasion, former president George H.W. Bush became unwell and vomited on the Japanese prime minister.
Asian leaders appeared to compete over which country could provide the most extravagant welcome celebration. It was the first time since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 that a U.S. president has been invited for an official dinner inside Beijing’s Forbidden City. “It was a red carpet like nobody I think has probably ever received,” Mr. Trump told reporters, “and that really is a sign of respect — perhaps for me a little bit, but really for our country.”
The President also promised a “major statement” on trade later this week at the White House. “We’ve made some very big steps with respect to trade, far bigger than anything you know,” he said.