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

Bangkok grapple with shortage of masks as smog smothers city

The Thai government is trying to resolve a dangerous air pollution problem in Bangkok, by seeding clouds to produce rain and using water cannons to clean streets and the air. After spending several days choking on high levels of fine particle dust, many Bangkok residents have opted for masks to protect themselves. But some were unable to find the N95-grade face masks required and are calling for the authorities to cover the shortage. Meanwhile, an online poll conducted by The Standard online magazine among 2,200 residents on Monday (Jan 14) and Tuesday revealed that 50.3 per cent wore masks to protect themselves, while the remainder complained they could not find one.


By The Nation (Thailand)
January 17, 2019

Analysis, Economics

South Korean defense paper doesn’t label north an enemy

Ministry also says the north has specialized battalion for assassination of key figures. The Defense Ministry does not directly refer to North Korea as an enemy and takes a less hostile tone toward the communist state in its 23rd white paper published Tuesday. The ministry’s latest biennial white paper — the first to be published since the Moon Jae-in administration came to power in 2017 — addresses security threats, military policies and the regional security environment. Perhaps most notably, the Defense Ministry eliminated the phrase specifically describing North Korea as South Korea’s “enemy,” a move that appears to reflect


By The Korea Herald
January 16, 2019

Analysis, Economics

What does Vietnam’s new cyber law mean for online dissent?

Will Facebook kowtow to the Vietnamese government to keep its market share. Facebook is in violation of a Vietnamese new cybersecurity law by allowing its users to post content critical of the communist government on its platform, the Ministry of Information and Communication announced on Wednesday of last week. The news came just days after the law went into effect on Jan. 1. The new legislation requires internet companies to comply with government demands to remove user-posted material it doesn’t like. The law also stipulates that information technology companies—Facebook and Google for instance—may be required to set up local offices and store customer data domestically, a feature which human rights advocates worry might make it easier for the government to track and charge dissidents for their online activities. This new legislation follows a pattern of increasing digital scrutiny by th


By Quinn Libson
January 15, 2019

Analysis, Economics

Huawei to end employment of staff arrested in Poland for spying

Huawei has been accused by countries of spying for Chinese government. Huawei announced on Saturday evening that it would terminate employment of Wang Weijing, who was detained in Poland on suspicion of spying, CCTV reported. Wang’s alleged actions have no relation to the company, according to Huawei. “In accordance with the terms and conditions of Huawei’s labor contract, we have made this decision because the incident in question has brought Huawei into disrepute,” said Huawei. “Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates, and we require every employee to abide by the laws and regulations in the countries where they are based,” said Huawei.


By China Daily
January 14, 2019

Analysis, Economics

Talks calm trade climate for Beijing, Washington

For the trade war, more talks means less tension. The latest round of vice-ministerial level trade talks between China and the United States, which concluded on Wednesday, have laid a foundation for addressing each other’s concerns, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday. Both sides have actively implemented the significant consensus reached by their heads of state and conducted extensive, in-depth and detailed exchanges on trade and structural issues of common concern, Gao Feng, the ministry’s spokesman, said at a news briefing on Thursday. The meetings between China and the US began on Monday in Beijing. According to a statement released by the ministry on Thursday morning, the two sides improved mutual understanding. Both sides agreed to continue to keep in close contact, the statement said. On Dec 1, the top leaders of China and the US met on the sidelines of the


By China Daily
January 11, 2019

Analysis, Economics

Korea seizes Japanese companies asset over wartime forced labor

Japan has summoned Seoul’s ambassador in protest. The seizure of Korean assets of Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal over Japan’s wartime use of South Korean forced labor went into effect Wednesday, prompting the Japanese government to summon South Korean ambassador to Tokyo in protest. The Daegu District Court’s Pohang branch approved the seizure last week, as the firm has refused to follow the Oct. 30 ruling by the top court here to compensate four South Koreans forced into labor during Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of the Korean Peninsula. The assets of Nippon Steel have been frozen as the company received the documents ordering the seizure. Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba summoned South Korean ambassador to Tokyo, Lee Su-hoon, on Wednesday in protest and expressed regret over the decision. After the 10-minute talks with Akiba, Lee told reporters


By The Korea Herald
January 10, 2019