Efforts Made by Trump Administration to Win Asian Countries Goes in Vain
America’s engagement with the international community was reduced after Donald Trump came into power and unveiled his “America First” motto. The impulsive decisions taken by the US President ranged from leaving the Pacific trade deal to threatening import tariffs on long-standing allies.
Over the past year, Washington has pledged millions of funding and military support for Asian governments under its Indo-Pacific blueprint. However, the Asian economies are still not sure about the America’s stability and doubt the promises made by the Trump administration.
With the recent departure of the US Defence Secretary James Mattis, the certainty of the promises made by the Trump administration looks gloomier.
A poll was conducted by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a Singapore think tank, wherein 1,008 stakeholders from Southeast Asia’s policy, research, business, civil society and media communities participated. The survey that was conducted between November 18 and December 5 showed that 68 percent of the participants believe US engagement has been decreased with the region after Trump was appointed.
The survey also indicated a pessimistic view on the Trump administration, with just 31.9 percent believing that Washington is reliable as a strategic partner and provider of regional security.
“About three out of four Southeast Asians (74.1%) expect China to vie for political leadership in response to the growing indifference of the US towards Southeast Asia and ASEAN,” a report on the survey results added.
Malcolm Cook, senior fellow at the think tank, said: “The survey shows that President Trump has hurt the standing of the US in Southeast Asia. This means that the Asia Reassurance Initiative and other policies will be a hard sell for the Trump administration.”
Collin Koh Swee Lean, a research fellow specializing in Southeast Asian defense at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, suggested that the infrastructure fund and initiatives like ARIA are appreciated “but the biggest question is always about whether the administration will follow up with implementation.” According to Koh, the goal should be the promotion of “greater cooperation with allies and partners.”
Other analysts suggest that the US should show more interest in the region.
While the ongoing US-China trade war is also a matter of concern for the Asians. Hunter Marston, an independent Southeast Asia analyst based in Washington, DC, said “One of the main concerns is the lack of top-level attention on Southeast Asia, as demonstrated by President Trump’s decision not to attend the ASEAN East Asia Summit or APEC Summit in November. That marks a major contrast with the administration of Barack Obama, who took a keen personal interest in the region.”
“While many Southeast Asian partners may privately support the Trump administration’s willingness to stand up to Chinese regional coercion, publicly Asian leaders remain wary of the geopolitical pressure to choose sides between Washington or Beijing,” he added.
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