Updated 8:30 a.m. | President Donald Trump delivered a stern lecture to Asian leaders Friday, chiding them for profiting off an open U.S. market while taking advantage of America and its companies.
“The United States promoted private enterprise, innovation, and industry. Other countries used government-run industrial planning and state-owned enterprises,” Trump said during remarks at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang, Vietnam. “They engaged in product dumping, subsidized goods, currency manipulation, and predatory industrial policies.
In a speech that reflected his “America first” campaign message and governing philosophy, Trump criticized Asian countries for ignoring international rules “to gain advantage over those who followed the rules, causing enormous distortions in commerce and threatening the foundations of international trade itself.”
“Such practices, along with our collective failure to respond to them, hurt many people in our country and also in other countries,” the president said, his voice echoing through the still and quiet room. “Jobs, factories, and industries were stripped out of the United States and out of many countries in addition.”
The United States expects that markets will be open “to an equal degree on both sides, and that private industry — not government planners — will direct investment,” Trump said. “Unfortunately, for too long and in too many places, the opposite has happened. For many years, the United States systematically opened our economy with few conditions. We lowered or ended tariffs, reduced trade barriers, and allowed foreign goods to flow freely into our country.
“But while we lowered market barriers, other countries didn’t open their markets to us,” he said before being interrupted by a heckler in the audience of government officials and corporate executives.
Trump’s message at the APEC conference reflected his skepticism of such international bodies. To that end, he attacked the World Trade Organization, blaming it for what he views as America’s trade ailment.
“Countries were embraced by the World Trade Organization, even if they did not abide by its stated principles,” he said. “Simply put, we have not been treated fairly by the World Trade Organization. Organizations like the WTO can only function properly when all members follow the rules and respect the sovereign rights of every member.”
And as he did the day before in Beijing, Trump said he does not blame any other country for exploiting the United States after detecting that his predecessors would not retaliate and for making moves to profit off the WTO’s decisions.
“I do not blame China or any other country, of which there are many, for taking advantage of the United States on trade,” Trump said. “If their representatives are able to get away with it, they are just doing their jobs.
“I wish previous administrations in my country saw what was happening and did something about it,” the president said. “They did not, but I will. … We can no longer tolerate these chronic trade abuses, and we will not tolerate them.”
He vowed that his administration will not “turn a blind eye to violations, cheating, or economic aggression — those days are over.”
Trump laid out an approach for new trade pacts under his administration with individual countries, rather than the kind of sweeping trade agreement with a list of Pacific Rim countries that the Obama administration negotiated. Trump killed that pact, arguing the terms were not favortable to the U.S.
Those so-called bilateral deals will now have to meet what he on Friday described as “the principles of fair and reciprocal trade.” He said countries must deal from a standpoint of “mutual respect and mutual benefit.”
Trump promised to crack down on the theft of U.S. firms’ intellectual properties, take action on “the massive subsidizing of industries through colossal state-owned enterprises,” and speak out when American companies are the victims of cyber attacks.
“We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore,” he said. “I am always going to put America first the same way that I expect all of you in this room to put your countries first.”
Earlier, the White House announced that Trump and Russian President Putin will not have a formal meeting at the APEC summit. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who briefed reporters on the president's flight from Vietnam to China, didn’t rule out a Trump-Putin chat on the sidelines of the summit.
“There is no formal meeting or anything scheduled for them. Now, they’re going to be in the same place,” she said Friday. “Are they going to bump into each other and say hello? Certainly possible and likely.”