US President Trump hails Asian tour, skips East Asian Summit because of delays in schedule


US President Donald Trump waves as he boards Air Force One after attending the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila on November 14, 2017.
The US president was in the Philippines with leaders of 18 other nations for two days of summits, the final leg of a headline-grabbing Asian tour dominated by the North Korean nuclear crisis. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON

 

Donald Trump hailed a “tremendously successful” five-nation tour of Asia in which he made a lot of friends.

The US president, who began his journey in Japan 12 days ago, said his trip had seen progress in his goal of narrowing America’s yawning trade deficits.

“I’ve made a lot of friends at the highest levels,” Trump told reporters shortly before boarding Air Force One in Manila, adding the trip was “tremendously successful.”

“I think the fruits… are going to be incredible,” he said.

“We’ve explained that the United States is open for trade, but reciprocal trade.”

Trump made the comments after briefly gathering with 18 other world leaders ahead of the start of the East Asia Summit, the final set piece of his trip in Asia.

He left the Philippines Tuesday afternoon, failing to attend the 12th East Asia Summit since he has a scheduled flight at past 3 p.m.

Trump left the grounds of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), the venue for the ASEAN Summit, at 3:15 p.m., on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The 12th East Asia Summit, which was the reason he extended his stay in the country for one more day, was delayed for almost two hours. It was supposed to start at 1:30 p.m.

He told reporters on Air Force One that he had delivered his prepared remarks during the lunch instead of the summit meeting.   Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would attend the plenary session in his place, a senior White House official said.

Trump said his trip had resulted in at least $300 billion, possibly triple that figure, of deals being agreed. He did not elaborate.

“We have had a tremendously successful trip, tremendous amounts of work was done on trade, not only on the deals and we have had at least 300 billion dollars worth of deals but that will be I think, way triple that number in a fairly short period of time,” Trump said.

“But I think much more importantly, we explained that the United States is open for trade but we want reciprocal trade, we want fair trade for the United States. Because, with past administrations, as I said in China and I’ve said very loud very clear, the United States has been taken advantage of, they are very giving and they don’t get in return. So, we want fair trade, we want reciprocal trade,” he added.

After the lunch hosted by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Trump did not stay on for the East Asian Summit because of delays in the original schedule. He also missed the preceding group photo with his fellow leaders.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sat in for him at the summit, which was scheduled to run into the evening.

The summit groups the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations with Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Russia, as well as the United States.

Trade and concern about possible protectionism under Trump’s “America First” agenda have come up during his visit to the region, which included stops in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam before concluding in the Philippines.

In a trip that was dominated by the North Korean nuclear crisis, Trump was treated to pomp and pageantry in Japan and South Korea, where he repeatedly blasted the regime of Kim Jong-Un.

In China, where President Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet for a “state visit plus” — a welcome Trump declared “people really have never seen anything like” —  the White House trumpeted more than $250 billion of trade deals.

At a regional summit in Vietnam, Trump returned to the topic of North Korea in what aides said was part of a strategy of forging a global front to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its weapons program.

In the Philippines, Trump sparked headlines with his pally relationship with President Rodrigo Duterte.

(Agence France Presse, Reuters)