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

World Bank, Pakistan reach massive loan deal

Pakistan on Tuesday signed three loan agreements worth a total of $918 million with the World Bank. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh witnessed the signing of the agreement between Country Director World Bank Patchamuthu Illangovan and Economic Affairs Division Secretary Noor Ahmed. The representatives of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa signed their respective project agreements. After the agreements were signed, the World Bank’s country director held a meeting with the Dr Sheikh, who thanked the World Bank “for extending their continuous support to Pakistan’s government in its efforts to achieve the sustainable economic development of the country.” The details of the three project the funds will be used for are as follows: ‘Pakistan Raises Revenue P


By Dawn
June 19, 2019

Analysis, Economics

Hong Kong leader apologises for protest response

I offer my most sincere apology to all the people of Hong Kong: Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam offered her personal apology to every Hong Konger for her inadequacies in handling the extradition Bill saga, saying the incident has made her realise she needs to do better, to hear people out and to work harder to balance the view of the people. Mrs Lam told a press conference, which started at 4pm on Tuesday (June 18) and lasted for nearly an hour, that she will not restart the legislative process of the extradition Bill as long as the conflict in society is not resolved. “I have heard you loud and clear and have reflected deeply on what has transpired,” Mrs Lam said.


By The Straits Times
June 19, 2019

Analysis, Economics

Southeast Asia sugar industry discusses strategies as global deficit looms

The meeting took place in Ho Chi Minh city. There will be a global sugar deficit of about 2.5 million tonnes in 2019-20, and prices are expected to harden, the fourth meeting of the ASEAN Sugar Alliance heard in HCM City yesterday. Sasathorn Sanguandeekul, market analyst, futures trading and risk management at Thailand’s MITR Phol Sugar Corp Ltd, said in 2018-19 — the crop starts annually in September — there was a surplus of two million tonnes. A deficit would occur this year mostly due to a reduction in output in major sugar producing countries, including Thailand, he said. “In 2019-20 with the expectation of reduction in Thailand and India, Asia should have a deficit of around 9.5 million tonnes.” Output in Brazil, the world’s largest sugar producer and exporter, in 2018-19 “decreased to 26.5 million tonnes due to ageing canes, drought and low sugar mix r


By Viet Nam News
June 18, 2019

Analysis, Economics

Xi to pay state visit to DPRK at end of week

Kim Jong-un invited the Chinese leader ahead of G20 summit. President Xi Jinping will make a state visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Thursday and Friday, the first by a top leader of China in 14 years. Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, was invited by Kim Jong-un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK, for the visit, the first since Xi became the CPC’s top leader at the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012. The visit comes as the two countries embrace the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic ties this year. It will be crucially significant to bilateral ties as it will build on the past and usher in the future, said Song Tao, head of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, at a news briefing on Monday. During the visit, Xi and Kim will reflect


By China Daily
June 18, 2019

Analysis, Economics

Millions take to streets of Hong Kong against extradition bill.

Hong Kong government offices remain closed on Monday amid call for strikes. The Hong Kong government on Monday declared that central government offices would be closed for the day as the city braced itself for workers’ strikes after a record turnout at Sunday’s rally protesting a divisive extradition Bill. An official notice released on Monday morning said: “As the access roads in the vicinity of the the Central Government Offices (CGO) are blocked, CGO will still be temporarily closed today (June 17). “Staff working in the CGO should not go to the workplace and should work in accordance with the contingency plans of their respective bureaus or departments. All visits to the CGO will be postponed or cancelled.”


By The Straits Times
June 17, 2019

Analysis, Economics

Beijing slams unrest and backs HK govt’s use of lawful means to tackle it

Protests have shut down Hong Kong for the past several days before a government crackdown. Beijing yesterday condemned the unrest that broke out in Hong Kong over the city’s extradition Bill as an organised riot, and said it supported the local government’s use of lawful means to resolve the situation. Asked if the central government supported the use of rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong was against any act that undermines the city’s prosperity and stability. “Any civilised and lawful society will not tolerate the destruction of peace and tranquillity,” he said. “The Chinese central government strongly condemns all types of violence and supports the Hong Kong government to handle the matter according to the law.” Chinese state media


By The Straits Times
June 14, 2019