U.S. under Trump: We would be foolish not to engage Asia

MANILA, Philippines – US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim on Tuesday, January 24, said he is confident that the administration of US President Donald Trump will continue to engage the Asia-Pacific region.

"Frankly, we would be foolish not to remain engaged in the Asia-Pacific region," Kim said in a briefing with select Filipino journalists, including Rappler executive editor and CEO Maria Ressa.

Kim continued, "You look at the trade statistics, you look at the population growth, you look at the investment opportunities, you look at the strategic dynamics here, of course the US will stay engaged."

"I am confident that the President and his advisers will continue our engagement in the Asia-Pacific region," the ambassador said. 

Kim was responding to a question about dramatic changes in the Asia-Pacific, including Trump's decision to pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). 

The TPP is a trade deal binding the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Vietnam, and 7 other allies against growing Chinese economic clout.

Trump's Republican ally, John McCain, said the TPP pullout was a "serious mistake." 

McCain explained: "It will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road at the expense of American workers. And it will send a troubling signal of American disengagement in the Asia-Pacific region at a time we can least afford it."

Kim, however, appealed against making premature judgments about the Trump administration, even as observers feel that the US will become "more inward-looking" and "protectionist" under Trump.

"I'm aware that there is a lot of concern, but there's also a lot of speculation. I think we should give the new administration time to get settled. The President just started," Kim said.

"I think it's premature to start making judgments on various policy aspects of the new administration," the ambassador said. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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