Commentary: Ambitious Asia trip for a US president leaves region longing for more

US President Donald Trump’s highly anticipated Asia trip had a packed agenda and was closely watched by many in the region. Yale-NUS College’s Chin-Hao Huang discusses whether it has lived up to expectations and what it bodes for the future.
SINGAPORE: With five countries in 12 days, US President Donald Trump’s Asia visit was ambitious. He managed to check off some of the key items he wanted to address, especially on airing concerns about unfair trade practices and the North Korean crisis, but on the whole his visit fell short in providing a coherent vision on a number of important, strategic issues.
For starters, there was limited clarity on US leadership and what it stands for in this part of the world.
Although Trump had already signalled US withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership before he entered office, he missed the opportunity to articulate and convey a credible alternative in this trip to reassure partners on how future trade relations with the region will be affected, and what a rules-based order for a more balanced economic partnership might look like.
The economic nationalism he championed did not square with the message that the US wants to engage Asia in an open and competitive manner. Righting the US’s trade imbalance will be difficult to accomplish in a relatively short period of time and will probably not come to fruition during his presidency. He gained points from his domestic constituents, but in so doing may have sacrificed US standing as a proponent for free and open trade in the region.