Thursday 22 August 2019

Trump tells Asian summit it's 'USA first'

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin take part in a photo at the Apec summit in Danang, Vietnam, yesterday. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin take part in a photo at the Apec summit in Danang, Vietnam, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Neil Connor and Ben Riley-Smith

Donald Trump launched a blistering attack on "chronic trade abuses" yesterday, warning an audience of world leaders at a summit in Vietnam that he will always "put America first".

He also resumed his tough talk on North Korea as he sought to rally Asia-Pacific nations into confronting the "twisted fantasies" of leader Kim Jong-un.

And he came face to face with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, as the pair shook hands and exchanged words during a photo opportunity.

Mr Trump was at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit in Danang after arriving from China, where he had softened his tone on trade and North Korea.

But speaking to a gathering of chief executives, Mr Trump readopted a tough line as he said America will not "be taken advantage of any longer" with unequal trade policies. "We can no longer tolerate these chronic trade abuses and we will not tolerate them," Mr Trump said.

He went on: "From this day forward, we will compete on a fair and equal basis. We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore.

"I am always going to put America first the same way that I expect all of you to put your countries first."

He named specific practices adopted by Asian countries towards American companies that he wanted to curb and pledged to tackle the "audacious theft of intellectual property" and the "cyber attacks" and "corporate espionage" being done on behalf of states.

"We will encourage all nations to speak out loudly when the principles of fairness and reciprocity are violated," Mr Trump said.

He also struck a defiant tone towards Pyongyang, saying the region's future "must not be held hostage to a dictator's twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail".

During his China trip, he called on the North to "make a deal", but also urged China and Russia to increase their efforts in rein in Pyongyang.

But in Vietnam, he reverted to the more direct language he used in South Korea earlier. "Every single step the North Korea regime takes toward more weapons is a step it takes into greater and greater danger," he said.

Mr Trump's much anticipated meeting with Mr Putin appeared in doubt amid suggestions the pair would not have time for a one-to-one meeting.

The US president has been dogged by claims his election campaign colluded with the Kremlin, with three former aides being handed criminal charges in the last fortnight.

However, the two did share some words as they stood next to each other in blue silk shirts for a group photo. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, initially said that a "scheduling conflict" meant the two would not be able to meet. But the White House later indicated it was possible an unofficial meeting could take place on the sidelines of the summit, or later when both are in the Philippines.

Mr Trump flew to Vietnam from China without Melania, his wife, who stayed in Beijing to visit the Great Wall.

This weekend Mr Trump will visit Rodrigo Duterte, the firebrand leader of the Philippines, who has just claimed to have once stabbed a teenager to death. "At 16, I killed someone. We fought and I stabbed him," he told an audience of Filipino expats on the margins of the Apec summit.

Irish Independent

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