See More on Facebook

Analysis, Economics

America first has Asia looking inwards

Donald Trump’s America first policy may protect US interests but it has the added effect of increasing Asian dialogue and promoting Chinese prestige.


Written by

Updated: February 19, 2018

Donald Trump is not the first American president to proclaim ‘America first’ as a campaign slogan or a policy platform.

When running for election in 1916, Woodrow Wilson promised that he would put ‘America first’ and keep the United States out of World War 1.

After he was elected, however, he promptly reneged on his promise and sent troops and supplies to aid the British and French. Wilson would go on to be a key cog in the founding of the League of Nations and is remembered as an internationalist and globalist president.

But where Wilson reneged on his message that brought him electoral success, Trump looks set to keep his word.

Americas Retreat

One of the first decisions made by Trump after becoming president was to pull the United States out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, an international trade deal that the Obama administration and various other governments had spent the better part of a decade negotiating.

He followed that decision by calling for both Japan and South Korea, evergreen US allies, to pay their ‘fair share’ in the defense of the region – a situation made more daunting by Trump’s heated rhetoric with Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean regime.

Trump’s trade policies have also favored protectionism with the US choosing to place heavy tariffs on South Korean washing machines and solar panels. The move was decried by the South Korean government who filed a WTO complaint.

“The US decision to impose tariffs on South Korean washers and solar panels is excessive and apparently constitutes a violation of WTO provisions,” Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong said in a meeting with industry officials. “The US government took actions in consideration of its domestic political situation, rather than abiding by international regulations.”

Trump’s commerce department further recommended that the president impose heavy tariffs or quotas on steel imports from South Korea, China and other countries.

The department suggested three options: a global tariff of 24 percent on all steel imports; 53 percent or higher tariffs on 12 countries including South Korea and China; and a quota on steel imports from all countries up to 63 percent of what those countries imported in 2017. Trump must decide whether to adopt any of the recommendations by April 11.

An editorial in the Korea Herald comments:

“Trump’s remarks cannot be dismissed as a bluff. They are becoming a reality…The US has been escalating its demands over the free trade deal with South Korea, which is currently being renegotiated. The number of trade investigations surged 81 percent to 94 for the past year.

Last year, China had $375.2 billion trade surplus with the US, more than 16 times South Korea’s. It is unreasonable to treat South Korea and China equally as countries threatening jobs in America. When it comes to reducing trade deficit, the US should take equitable import curbs based on fact.”

Asia looks inwards

In response to Trump’s increasing isolationism, Asia has started looking inwards and towards China for investment, trade and partnerships. Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative has provided a steady platform for increased cooperation between traditional rivals and countries are coming around to the Yuan.

For example, Trump’s public criticism against Pakistan (and its harboring of terrorism) has made Islamabad look towards China for investment and military purchases. According to Dawn newspaper A 2017 Pentagon report singled out Pakistan as a possible location for a future Chinese military base.

Even Japan, a longtime rival of Beijing, has sent overtures to China about possibly joining the Belt and Road Initiative.

While Trump’s policies may be designed to protect US interests, it may have the added effect of uniting countries across Asia and increasing Chinese prestige.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Cod Satrusayang
About the Author: Cod Satrusayang is the Managing Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Economics

Disruption seen from auto parts duty in US-China trade war

US tariffs on Chinese auto parts will probably result in higher prices and could disrupt the global automotive supply chain industry. The Trump administration has imposed a new 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that takes effect on Sept 24. Beginning on Jan 1, the tariffs will increase to 25 percent. China retaliated with $60 billion of new tariffs on US products. The new levies target more than 100 automotive products including engines, gaskets, rubber seals, tires and transmission shafts. Tariffs are basically taxes on the consumer, and all costs increases within the supply chain will eventually be passed along to the consumer, according to Peter Nagle, senior automotive analyst at IHS Markit. “In the short-term, suppliers might absorb some of the cost of the tariff but eventually they will have to raise prices or resource product from elsewhere, which also will rai


By China Daily
September 24, 2018

Analysis, Economics

Thai seafood giant to address slavery issues at UN

Thailand’s progress in promoting human rights in the fishing industry will be addressed in a panel session on modern slavery and human trafficking at the United Nations General Assembly by seafood giants Thai Union. Darian McBain, global director of sustainability for the Thai Union Group, will address the panel on the topic of “Stepping up Action to End Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking”. “Thailand has made a number of advances on human rights, which should be commended, but there is more work to be done and I believe Thailand has the opportunity b


By The Nation (Thailand)
September 24, 2018

Analysis, Economics

India launches world’s biggest healthcare programme

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched India’s ambitious healthcare program on Sunday. Deemed the “world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme”, the scheme will cover half a billion people through its network of hospitals and support services. Speaking at the event, the PM said that the number of beneficiaries is equivalent to the total population of the United States, Canada and Mexico or the entire European Union. “This is a major step taken to fulfil the vision of providing better healthcare facilities to the poorest of the poor and to those standing last in the queue,” the PM said. Following the launch, the PM informed the gathering that the scheme covers diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, kidney and liver problems, diabetes and over 1300 various ailments. “The treatment of the diseases can not only be done in government hospitals but also private hospitals,” said


By Cod Satrusayang
September 24, 2018

Analysis, Economics

Opinion: One Belt, One Road: We must secure our interest

Shah Husain Imam argues in the Daily Star that Bangladesh must put its interests first in joining China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. The ancient Silk Road, of which the Belt and Road Initiative is a gigantic new avatar, dates back to the Chinese Han Dynasty’s westward expansion more than 2100 years ago. The Road derived its name from the lucrative silk trade along the routes through which it branched into what are today the central Asian countries Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, as well as present-day Pakistan and India to the south. These routes eventually spanned 4,000 miles to Europe. Interestingly, silk was regarded as more precious than gold as a commodity in those times as if to convey the misty romanticism with the old world charm about a fine fabric. At any rate, the Silk Road by no means offered silken smooth passage to travellers like Marco P


By Daily Star
September 21, 2018

Analysis, Economics

US exempts Korean steel from import tariff

The move is seen as a positive signal for the local steel industry. Steel products made by South Korea’s SL Tech has been excluded from the US’ steel tariffs, marking the first case of exemption since the US imposed a quota on Korean steel shipments this May, industry sources said Thursday. The US Commerce Department earlier this week accepted US medical device manufacturer Micro Stamping’s request for a tariff exemption on ultrafine steel tubes imported from Korean steel company SL Tech. Micro Stamping uses ultrafine steel tubes made by SL Tech to produce medical equipment. Korean steelmakers viewed the decision as a positive sign of a higher possibility of tariff exemptions, while remaining cautious over whether the same decision would be applied to steel products used for construction and household appliances.


By The Korea Herald
September 21, 2018

Analysis, Economics

A land with no smiles

The Thai middle class’ Faustian bargain with the military is hampering true democracy in the country. Almost ten years ago, I met a protester on the streets of Bangkok. It was a time of protest and political instability with the drama between the government and protesters spilling out onto the streets. To protect his identity against possible military reprisal, let us call him Nadech. Nadech will unlikely be recorded in history books, he was not a political leader, nor a despotic general or any other archetype of Thai history. He was a simple junk-store hawker, an occupation that involves going from house to house and sorting garbage to sell. His family had done well enough through grit and hard work to open a small convenience store in his home province. Nadech had taken to the streets in 2010 because he had believed the promises that exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had made and had seen, fi


By Cod Satrusayang
September 21, 2018