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How does Trump’s Asia trip affect American trade and security?

President Trump wrapped up his 12-day visit to Asia by meeting with the Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte, who is accused of a bloody crackdown over illegal drugs, and by addressing a summit of Southeast Asian nation in hopes they will counter China's influence. Judy Woodruff gets analysis from Michael Pillsbury of the Hudson Institute and Richard Haass of Council on Foreign Relations.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump is winding down his 12-day, five-nation trip to Asia by, among other things, meeting with a controversial leader accused of abusing human rights.

    On the surface, at least, it was all pleasantries between Mr. Trump and his host, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We have had a great relationship. This has been very successful.

  • Judy Woodruff:, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said:

    Up for discussion, trade and fighting terrorism. In public at least, President Trump did not mention Duterte’s bloody crackdown on drug suspects. Philippines officials estimate more than 3,000 people have died.

    Human rights groups say it is three times that many. Duterte has even boasted of killing men with his own hands when he was younger.

    After today’s meeting “Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs.”

    A spokesman for Duterte denied that Mr. Trump ever raised the issue.

  • Harry Roque:

    Well, there was no mention of human rights, there was no mention of extralegal killings. There was only a rather lengthy discussion about the Philippines’ war on drugs.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The leaders ignored reporters’ questions. Duterte called them spies, drawing laughter from President Trump.

    Reactions were sharply different in the streets. Hundreds of people protested the Trump visit, and police beat them back with shields and water cannons.

    Duterte, though, seemed unfazed. Last night, he even broke into song for his guest of honor.

  • President Rodrigo Duterte:

    Ladies and gentlemen, I sang, uninvited, a duet with Ms. Pilita Corrales, upon the orders of the commander in chief of the United States.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Still, there are differences. Today, Mr. Trump addressed leaders of ASEAN, a bloc of Southeast Asian nations, hoping they will help counter China’s influence.

    President Duterte is seeking closer ties with China. At a forum yesterday, he called it the number one economic power.

  • President Rodrigo Duterte:

    The South China Sea is better left untouched. Nobody can afford to go to war.

  • Judy Woodruff,

     Over the weekend, President Trump drew fire for his embrace of another strongman, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. They spoke during a summit of Asian-Pacific leaders in Vietnam.

    Afterward, the president was asked if he pressed Putin on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. He answered that, “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that.”

    Mr. Trump also said U.S. intelligence agency leaders who had confirmed Russian meddling were — quote — “political hacks.” But, on Sunday, he said he was talking about previous agency heads.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership. I believe in our intel agencies.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tomorrow, the president attends an East Asia summit meeting in Manila, concluding his Asia tour.

    We take a closer look at the trip and what message Mr. Trump is sending to the region with Richard Haass. He served in Republican administrations on the National Security Council staff and in the State Department. He is now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. His latest book is “A World in Disarray.” And Michael Pillsbury is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, where he directs the Center for Chinese Strategy. He was also an adviser to the Trump transition.

    And welcome to both of you. Welcome back to the program.

    Michael Pillsbury, to you first.

    What is the main thing the president has accomplished on this trip?

  • Michael Pillsbury:

    I think there’s two or three things.

    The main thing is to lay the foundation for his next trip, next year. He has laid the foundation in each of these five countries. He’s taken very seriously the three multilateral organizations that he met with. He’s also integrated trade and security in a very unique way that has not been done for a long time.

    If you look at his team at some of these meetings, not only has Secretary of State Tillerson — he’s also got Bob Lighthizer from USTR. So it is a unique combination of trade and security put together. It comes out also in some of the bilateral agreements with the five governments.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Richard Haass, how do you see the accomplishments on the trip so far?

  • Richard Haass:

    Well, the principal accomplishment, in the spirit of Woody Allen, was showing up, the fact that the president of the United States went to five countries, spent nearly two weeks, showed up at all these meetings.

    I think that says that Asia is important to us. This was, however in part undone by his own lack of discipline. You mentioned some of the things in your introduction, the kind treatment of the illiberal, to say the least, president of the Philippines, the statements about Mr. Putin, the trashing of former American intelligence officials.

    All this detracted from the trip. And where I disagree with Michael Pillsbury fundamentally is the president, rather than integrating security and trade, if anything, divorced the two. And historians will say, I will predict, the principal decision of the trip was to further distance the United States from the dynamism in the region, to keep the United States outside the multilateral trade mechanism, and the principal beneficiary of that is China, as our allies and friends are essentially left to their own devices.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let’s take those one at a time, Michael Pillsbury.

  • Michael Pillsbury:

    Sure.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What about his first, Richard Haass’s first point, that the president, with all these comments flattering the strongmen, cozying up to people who have not been seen as friendly to the U.S., that that really hurt the overall effort to get something done?

  • Michael Pillsbury:

    Human rights was mentioned in the bilateral statement between the Philippines and the United States.

    So it is a little bit unfair for Richard to say — you know, be as harsh as he is. This is a first time out. And I completely agree with invoking Woody Allen that 90 percent of life just showing up.

    But it’s more than that. He got some agreements. When I mentioned trade and economics being integrated, I’m talking about the businessmen who showed up in Beijing with a promised $250 billion in deals. Businessmen were part of each of the stops.

    So it cannot be denied that Trump is trying to integrate trade and investment with security issues. I think also it’s important that he laid out an exit ramp for the leader of North Korea. This is new.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me stop you there. I want to come back to Richard on that point about trade and security, and then we will come back to North Korea.

    Richard, what about that?

  • Richard Haass:

    Deals are not the answer.

    A lot of these deals in part represented previous agreements that then may take five, 10, 15 years to really come to fruition. That is going to then make the size of them quite insignificant.

    The real economic opportunity was to integrate the United States in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It would have set very high standards for the region. China is not a part of it. And it would have forced China to make a decision, stay outside the region economically or join it, but join it on term terms that we want, that they have to open up to investment and trade, that they can’t demand certain types of technology transfer, they can’t steal technology.

    So, we had this mechanism which we helped negotiate, and then Mr. Trump has walked away from it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, did the U.S. lose ground with regard to China in Asia?

  • Michael Pillsbury:

    No, I don’t think so. I understand Richard Haass’ criticism of walking away from TPP. I think what the president has in mind is replacing it in two ways. One is some sort of benefit from TPP. It’s not entirely dropped. Some aspects of it can be incorporated in the new framework, which is bilateral agreements with each of these major trading nations.

    The other thing I need to remind Richard Haass of is an excellent book he once wrote called “Reluctant Sheriff.” It has the concept in that book of a ripeness or ripening, when an issue is ready to be settled.

    It is a very important thing in geopolitics to know when it is time to do something. Right now, it’s time to move toward more bilateral trade agreements that are fairer to us. It’s also time to talk about North Korea, which he did at every stop, but in a much more measured way than some of the military threats that had been used earlier.

    In fact, there was very little discussion of sort of an attack on North Korea during the trip. I think that is a good thing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Richard Haass, what about the North Korea point and then about the trade, whether the timing is right?

  • Michael Pillsbury:

    And about this great book “The Reluctant Sheriff.”

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Richard Haass:

    It’s impossible to criticize someone who says nice things about something you have written.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Richard Haass:

    But let me come to North Korea.

    That’s obviously the most urgent national security threat, not just in the region, but the world. The president, I think, erred by some of his public tweeting and so forth, but, privately, the real question is, over time, did he line up Japan, South Korea and, most important, China to work with us more on putting pressure on North Korea?

    And even more, I think the question will be, Judy, is the United States now prepared to introduce an element of diplomacy. The choices are essentially living with North Korea with a large missile and nuclear inventory. That is not desirable. Going to war with North Korea, also not desirable.

    So why not introduce a serious diplomatic dimension? It won’t eliminate the problem, but it could cap and stabilize it and create a baseline. I don’t see that yet. I’m hoping. And, again, this is one trip, I realize. It’s not an entire foreign policy. We will have to look back on it one day. I’m hoping that that ultimately gets introduced.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we are going to have an opportunity in the future to look back at this.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We want to thank both of you, both the promoter of the book and the author himself.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Richard Haass, Michael Pillsbury, thank you both.

  • Michael Pillsbury:

    Richard is being too harsh on President Trump. That is my final view.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Michael Pillsbury:

    Thank you, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thank you.

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