Trump vows U.S. commitment to ASEAN – then praises own gov’t

Natashya Gutierrez
Trump vows U.S. commitment to ASEAN – then praises own gov’t
US President Donald Trump celebrated ASEAN's success and America's relationship with the regional bloc, but not without calling attention to how the US 'has been moving ahead really brilliantly' since he became President

MANILA, Philippines – Amid his “America First” strategy, US President Donald Trump vowed continued partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – before he went on to praise America under his leadership.

“I am here to advance peace, to promote security and to work with you to truly achieve an open Indo-Pacific where we are proud, and we have sovereign nations, and we thrive, and everybody wants to prosper,” he told ASEAN leaders on Monday, November 13, at the ASEAN-US 40th Anniversary Commemorative Summit.

“The United States remains committed to ASEAN’s central role as a regional forum for total cooperation. This diplomatic partnership advances the prosperity and security of the American people and the people of all Indo-Pacific nations.” 

Trump added that on the 50th anniversary of ASEAN, “we celebrate your incredible success and we also seek economic partnerships on the basis of fairness and reciprocity.”

Then he diverted from his prepared speech, to promote the United States’ achievements since he became President.

“As the world knows, the United States since our election on November 8 [2016], has been moving ahead really brilliantly on an economic basis,” he said.

“We’ve had the highest stock market we’ve ever had, we’ve had the lowest unemployment in 17 years, and the value of stocks has risen $5.5 trillion. And companies are moving in to the US, a lot of companies are moving back. They want to be there.”

Trump added, “The enthusiasm levels are the highest ever recorded on the charts.”

He said America’s achievements means only good things for the region.

“We think that bodes very well for your region because of the partnership that we have so we want our partners in the region to be strong, independent and prosperous. In control of their own destinies and satellites to no one.”

According to reports however, Trump’s statements are not complete accurate.

While business optimism and stock markets have indeed risen, the numbers are highest not in “decades” but since the 2008-2009 recession. Experts have also said Trump cannot take credit alone for the recent economic achievements and the drop in unemployemnt, since Trump has only been in power for a year and the US economic recovery has been ongoing since the financial crisis.

Mutual admiration

Trump also did not hide his admiration for Duterte, who he has been friendly with throughout the Summit.

“Rodrigo, I would like to commend you on your success as ASEAN chair at this very critical moment in time and in the Association’s history, such an important event. And I want to thank you for your incredible hospitality and the show last night. The talent in that show, I assume mostly from the Philippines, was fantastic. Thank you.”

He then joked about Duterte singing at the ASEAN gala, that the Philippine president hosted the night before. Duterte said he sang a Filipino song at the request of Trump.

“And you were fantastic, also very much from the Philippines. We couldn’t tell the difference.”

Meanwhile, Duterte was just as gracious towards the United States, seemingly forgetting his past remarks on his “separation” from the United States both in military and economic aspects as he moved towards China in his foreign policy.

“President Trump comes to us at a time when the ASEAN is celebrating 50 years of relative peace and proseprity made possible by supportive external partners including the United States,” Duterte said in his opening address.

“It is our shared interest to keep our ASEAN-US engagement close, and to ensure that our strategic partners delivers the best results for our peoples.”

The Philippines plays host to this year’s ASEAN, which is also the 50th anniversary since its founding. World leaders are in Manila until the summit ends on Wednesday, November 15. –

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