04 January 2017
Mr Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 American presidential election has confounded many observers, including in Asia.
His unpredictable actions — from the provocative and protocol-bending phone conversation with the Taiwanese president to his questioning of the decades-old One China policy — signal that more surprises could be in store following his inauguration as the new United States President in two weeks.
While Mr Trump has spoken much about an “America First” policy, the uncertainty over the extent to which he would implement it has raised questions on what it would mean for the US’ security commitments, political engagement and economic ties with the Asia-Pacific region.
… Unlike Mr Obama, Mr Trump is unlikely to attend multilateral engagements such as the East Asia Summit or summits of the Association of South -east Asian Nations (Asean), as these are engagements that do not serve US interests per se, said Mr Harry Sa, a research analyst with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS).
“President Barack Obama’s participation in Asean-led summits was primarily to develop closer ties with Asean and strengthen Asean centrality. It was a deliberate part of his rebalance to Asia policy,” Mr Sa noted.
“Trump has no such designs, so I don’t expect him to be too eager to participate. He will likely participate in forums only if it specifically concerns the US.”
… In its place, the Trump administration would favour “fair trade” — code for better terms for the US — and bilateral agreements in accordance with Mr Trump’s aversion to multilateralism, said RSIS political economy expert, Associate Professor Pradumna Bickram Rana.
On the other hand, the incoming US president’s approach towards economic dealings with Asia might be more nuanced in reality.
… Ultimately, whether America becomes an AIIB member in the future boils down to how the Trump administration perceives the benefits of membership.
“We have to keep in mind that Trump is a dealmaker,” Assistant Professor Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit of RSIS told TODAY.
“If the analysis suggests that joining the AIIB would bring more gains to, for example, the US companies in the construction sector and American workers, the Trump administration may be interested in joining the AIIB.”
CMS / IDSS / RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 04/01/2017