U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Vietnam to attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in which he discussed trade and collective security in the Asia-Pacific region with his counterparts.
During his first APEC speech, Trump said that the U.S. will no longer accept "chronic trade abuses" and that he would be willing to cooperate with APEC countries if they "abide by fair reciprocal trade."
The 21-pacific country conglomerate accounts for about 60% of the world’s total GDP.
Trump has been an advocate for an “America first” policy that would see the end of “unfair trade agreements.” Since taking office, Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major ‘free trade’ agreement with 12 APEC economies, that would have hurt U.S. economic interests, according to Trump.
The Trump administration has also vowed to renegotiate the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) involving neighboring Canada and Mexico.
In his address, Trump also took shots at the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying that it "cannot function properly" because other countries do not abide by international trade laws set by the WTO. "Such practices hurt many people in our country," Trump said, referring to trade law noncompliance.
Echoing his remarks in Beijing, Trump blamed previous administrations for a failure to negotiate properly, saying that the U.S. would make bilateral agreements with "any Indo-Pacific partner here who abides by fair reciprocal trade", but only "on a basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit."
Instead, 11 Pacific Rim countries on their own Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement without the U.S. being involved at all.
Trump was set to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during the APEC summit, much to the chagrin of his domestic critics who point to controversy surrounding alleged ‘Russian interference’ in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.
However, the White House announced that this meeting would no longer take place due to scheduling conflicts.
“Regarding a Putin meeting, there was never a meeting confirmed, and there will not be one that takes place due to scheduling conflicts on both sides,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters.
“Now, they’re going to be in the same place. Are they going to bump into each other and say hello? Certainly possible and likely. But in terms of a scheduled, formal meeting, there’s not one on the calendar and we don’t anticipate that there will be one,” Sanders said.
After conflicting messages from the Kremlin and White House, it was confirmed that the meeting never took place.
“The question is whether we've got sufficient substance,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters. “And we have been in contact with [the Russians], and the view has been if the two leaders are going to meet, is there something sufficiently substantive to talk about that would warrant a formal meeting?”
Instead of a formal meeting, Trump and Putin signed a declaration on Syria and gave a joint statement that claimed there is “no military solution” in the country that has been gripped in a vicious war for over 6 years.