Trump touts progress on first Indo-Asia-Pacific trip as president

Trump touts progress on first Indo-Asia-Pacific trip as president

The Associated Press

Donald Trump concluded his first Indo-Asia-Pacific trip as U.S. president with an international summit and a series of meetings with Pacific Rim allies, including his host in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte.

Trump, pictured, jointly met in mid-November 2017 with Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, with whom he had a contentious phone call in January 2017, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who hosted the president in Tokyo earlier in the trip. Trump raved about his accomplishments on his five-nation journey, including on trade and North Korea.

“We’ve made some very big steps with regard to trade — far bigger than anything you know,” Trump told reporters at the beginning of the meeting in Manila, touting business deals forged between U.S. and foreign companies.

“We’ve made a lot of big progress on trade. We have deficits with almost everybody. Those deficits are going to be cut very quickly and very substantially,” Trump said.

“Except us,” Turnbull chimed in, to laughs.

“You’re the only one,” Trump responded.

Trump also said the trip had been “very fruitful” for the United States and pointed to the warm welcomes he had received in capitals Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing.

“It was red carpet like nobody, I think, has probably ever received,” Trump said. “And that really is a sign of respect, perhaps for me a little, but really for our country. And I’m really proud of that.”

The opening ceremonies of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations conference began with pageantry, including a group photo of the leaders and the summit’s traditional handshake.

One of the leaders on Trump’s flank: Philippine President Duterte, who has overseen a bloody drug war that has featured extrajudicial killings. The two men held longer, formal talks during Trump’s visit, and White House aides signaled that Trump would not publicly bring up human rights in their discussions.

During brief remarks to reporters, Trump said he and Duterte have “had a great relationship” but avoided questions on whether he had, in fact, raised human rights issues.

Trump also met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, which plays a key role in the U.S. vision of an Indo-Asia-Pacific region that attempts to de-emphasize China’s influence. A dinner between Trump and Turnbull was also scheduled but later canceled.