The Trump Administration & US - Indo Pacific Relations

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Coordinator: Sarah Wang. For methodology, click here.

This resource will track statements, developments, visits, and other interactions in US-Asia Pacific relations under the President Trump administration. Special focus will be given to the comments and activities of President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, United States Trade Representative Ambassador Robert E. LighthizerSecretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Jr. To view the positions of members of the administration on key Asia Pacific issues, scroll down or use the links below.

President Donald J. Trump Vice President Mike Pence
United States Trade Representative Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer Secretary of Defense James Mattis
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Jr. 

President Donald J. Trump

To view quotations, statements, and interactions with Asia-Pacific leaders by President Trump, click here.

Official Portrait of President Donald J. Trump. Image: The White House

Asia Pacific Countries Visited:

  • Singapore flag. Image: Freepik Singapore in June 2018.
  • Japanese Flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.comSouth Korean flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.comChinese flag. Image: www.flaticon.comPhilippine Flag. Image: flaticon Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines in November 2017. 

Positions on Key Asia Issues:

Asia Pacific Allies & Partners

Since his inauguration, President Trump has had numerous phone calls and discussions with leaders and business people from the Asia Pacific. He has pledged to renegotiate trade and refugee agreements to make such bilateral agreements more favorable for the United States. Upon meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on February 10, 2017, President Trump stated that the United States is behind Japan "100 percent" and reaffirmed security commitments to Japan. Both he and Prime Minister Abe also confirmed that they will work together to maintain a strong economic relationship following the stalled Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and the United States' withdrawal. In response to the continuing threat posed by North Korea, President Trump has stated that discussions with Japan and South Korea are ongoing over strengthening missile defense systems. President Trump has called for an investigation into the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) known as KORUS that the United States has with South Korea to potentially renegotiate it on more favorable terms for the United States. 

China/Taiwan

President Trump has condemned the ongoing efforts by China to continue its military expansion in the South China Sea, as well as its taking of a United States Navy research drone in international waters. While recognizing the importance of maintaining good relations with China, President Trump has advocated for stronger measures to be taken to curb China's harmful trade practices and to get it to follow through on its promises to bring North Korea to heel. In a recent phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Trump stated that the United States would continue to uphold the "One China" policy.

Following a phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, President Trump questioned why there was so much concern that such a phone call took place, especially considering the amount of military trade that the United States engages in with Taiwan.

Human Rights & Democracy

President Trump is working to renegotiate a refugee agreement with Australia to make the terms more favorable for the United States. 

North Korea

President Trump has condemned North Korea's ongoing efforts to build up its inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) program. He also criticized China's reluctance to follow through on commitments to punish North Korea for its hostile behavior. He has not taken the possibility of meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un off the table. In light of recent launches of ballistic missiles by North Korea, President Trump has agreed that close bilateral and trilateral ties with Japan and South Korea are necessary to counter the North Korean threat. According to President Trump, the potential for conflict with North Korea is quite high. 

South China Sea

President Trump has condemned the ongoing efforts by China to continue its military expansion in the South China Sea.

Southeast Asia/Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

President Trump has engaged in conversations with Southeast Asian allies and partners on the phone and in person to reaffirm the importance of strengthening US-ASEAN relations. 

Summits - APEC, East Asia (EAS), & US-ASEAN

President Trump attended the APEC Summit in Da Nang, Viet Nam and US-ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit (EAS) in the Philippines in November 2017, during which he discussed the need for improved trade practices and cooperation to counter regional threats such as North Korea. 

Trade & Investment

President Trump has pledged to work closely with the Abe government in Japan to maintain strong bilateral economic ties, despite being critical of some of Japan's trade practices.

President Trump has been even more critical of China's trade practices, particularly their unfair policies towards US businesses, the loss of US jobs due to outsourcing to China,  and the devaluation of its currency. However, he also has acknowledged the importance of maintaining a strong trade relationship with China.

President Trump has called for an investigation into the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) known as KORUS that the United States has with South Korea to potentially renegotiate it on more favorable terms for the United States. 

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Vice President Mike Pence

To view quotations, statements, interactions with Asia Pacific leaders by Vice President Pence, click here.

Official Portrait of Vice President Mike Pence. Image: White House

Asia Pacific Countries Visited:

  •  South Korea flag. Image: Flaticon.  Japan and South Korea in February 2018.
  • South Korean flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.com Japanese Flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.com Indonesian flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.com Australian flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.com South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Australia in April 2017. 

Positions on Key Asia Pacific Issues:

Asia Pacific Allies & Partners

During his first trip to the Asia Pacific in April 2017, Vice President Pence vowed to uphold the United States' longstanding alliances in the region and work with allies and partners to maintain stability in the region. Vice President Pence met with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on February 21, 2017 to emphasized the importance of the United States' relationship with Australia. While meeting with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on February 10, Vice President Pence affirmed that the United States wishes to maintain strong economic and security ties with Japan, as well as reaffirming that under Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty all territory administered by Japan including the disputed Senkaku Islands is protected. 

China/Taiwan

During his first trip to the Asia Pacific in April 2017, Vice President Pence emphasized the importance of China upping its commitment and efforts to curbing North Korea's aggression. He has continued to emphasize the importance of China's aid in dealing with North Korea while in Washington, DC. 

Human Rights & Democracy

 

North Korea

 

South China Sea

 

Southeast Asia/Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

During his first trip to the Asia Pacific in April 2017, Vice President Pence met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and other Indonesian leaders to reaffirm the United States' commitment to its strategic partnership with Indonesia, work to improve trade and investment practices in the bilateral relationship, and discuss religious freedom at an interfaith dialogue. He also met with members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) and emphasized the importance of US trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a whole. In Washington, Vice President Pence met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to continue to strengthen the Comprehensive Partnership between the United States and Vietnam.

Summits - APEC, East Asia (EAS), & US-ASEAN

 

Trade & Investment

Vice President Pence has pledged to continue to move forward with economic engagement with countries in the Asia Pacific region, including Japan. On his first trip to the Asia-Pacific he launched the US-Japan Economic Dialogue to continue the discussions between President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe on how to improve the US-Japan bilateral trade relationship. While on the same trip he praised the trade that the United States has with the Association with Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia. He has, however, expressed concerns about the US trade deficit with allies including South Korea following bilateral trade agreements. 

Vice President Pence also met with members of the US-India Business Council to discuss opportunities of expanding economic partnerships and investment between the United States and India. 

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United States Trade Representative Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer

To view quotations, statements, interactions with Asia Pacific leaders by United States Trade Representative Lighthizer, click here.

Official Portrait of United States Trade Representative Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer. Image: Stephanie Chasez, White House

Asia Pacific Countries Visited:

  • Chinese Flag. Image: Flaticon. China in May 2018. 
  •  Japan in November 2017.
  • Vietnamese flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.com Vietnam in May 2017. 

Positions on Key Asia Pacific Issues:

Asia Pacific Allies & Partners

Ambassador Lighthizer has headed the negotiations with his counterparts in South Korea to amend the United States-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA).

He has held discussions with his Indian counterparts to expand bilateral trade between the United States and India and with counterparts from Japan to address the trade deficit and other trade concerns. 

Ambassador Lighthizer has met with delegations from Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam to discuss improvements in the bilateral economic relationships that the United States has with these regional partners and to address unfair trade practices. 

In May 2017, Ambassador Lighthizer attended the Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) during the APEC meeting held in Vietnam. During those meetings, he met with several Vietnamese officials to explore furthering economic ties under the U.S.-Vietnam Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

China/Taiwan

Ambassador Lighthizer has been heavily involved in the negotiations surrounding the Section 301 Action against China, which calls for tariffs to be leveled against China to counteract unfair trade practices by China against the United States. He has also spoken at length about China's product dumping in the US market and infringments on intellectual property. 

Human Rights & Democracy

 

North Korea

 

South China Sea

 

Southeast Asia/Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Ambassador Lighthizer has met with delegations from Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam to discuss improvements in the bilateral economic relationships that the United States has with these regional partners and to address unfair trade practices. 

In May 2017, Ambassador Lighthizer attended the Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) during the APEC meeting held in Vietnam. During those meetings, he met with several Vietnamese officials to explore furthering economic ties under the U.S.-Vietnam Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). 

Summits - APEC, East Asia (EAS), & US-ASEAN

In May 2017, Ambassador Lighthizer attended the Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) during the APEC meeting held in Vietnam. During those meetings, he met with several Vietnamese officials to explore furthering economic ties under the U.S.-Vietnam Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). 

Trade & Investment

Ambassador Lighthizer has been heavily involved in the negotiations surrounding the Section 301 Action against China, which calls for tariffs to be leveled against China to counteract unfair trade practices by China against the United States. He has also spoken at length about China's product dumping in the US market and infringments on intellectual property. 

Ambassador Lighthizer has headed the negotiations with his counterparts in South Korea to amend the United States-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA).

He has held discussions with his Indian counterparts to expand bilateral trade between the United States and India and with counterparts from Japan to address the trade deficit and other trade concerns. 

Ambassador Lighthizer has met with delegations from Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam to discuss improvements in the bilateral economic relationships that the United States has with these regional partners and to address unfair trade practices. 

 

In May 2017, Ambassador Lighthizer attended the Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) during the APEC meeting held in Vietnam. During those meetings, he met with several Vietnamese officials to explore furthering economic ties under the U.S.-Vietnam Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

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Secretary of Defense James Mattis

To view quotations, statements, and interactions with Asia Pacific leaders by Secretary Mattis, click here.

Official Portrait of Secretary of Defense Gen. (ret.) James Mattis. Image: Flickr account of the Secretary of Defense

Asia Pacific Countries Traveled to:

  • Singapore flag. Image: Freepik Singapore in June 2018.
  • Indonesia Flag. Image: FlaticonVietnamese flag. Image: Flaticon Indonesia and Vietnam in January 2018.
  • Philippine Flag. Image: flaticon Thailand Flag. Image: flaticon  The Philippines, Thailand, and South Korea in October 2017. 
  • India Flag. Image: flaticon India in September 2017.
  •    Japan and South Korea in February 2017.
  • Singapore flag. Image: Freepik Australia flag. Image: Freepik Singapore and Australia in June 2017. 

Positions on Key Asia Issues:

Asia Pacific Allies & Partners

Secretary Mattis described the Asia Pacific region as a priority for the Trump administration to maintain the US commitment to the region. During his first trip abroad as Secretary of Defense in February 2017, Gen. Mattis reaffirmed the United States' commitments to its allies Japan and South Korea. The United States would act swiftly to preserve the security of its allies against outside threats, including but not limited to hostile acts by North Korea and China. Secretary Mattis reaffirmed the US commitment to Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty, which includes security of the Senkaku Islands, and advocated for both the United States and its allies to continue to grow and streamline their defense capabilities. While attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June 2017, Secretary Mattis emphasized the importance of ASEAN and the United States' individual alliances and partnerships with ASEAN member nations, both at the Dialogue and during individual meetings in Washington, DC. Along with Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis also praised the US alliance with Australia during the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Sydney.  

China/Taiwan

Secretary Mattis advocated for an inter-governmental approach combined with allies to maintain stability in the South China Sea and counter China's expansion. During the first-ever Diplomatic and Security Dialogue (D&SD) im June 2017 with Secretary Tillerson and their Chinese counterparts in Washington, DC, Secretary Mattis affirmed the importance of cooperating with China on areas of mutual security concern such as North Korea. 

Secretary Mattis maintained the United States' commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act and providing Taiwan with the defensive means to maintain stability on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. 

Human Rights & Democracy

 

North Korea

While stopping short of declaring President Trump's recent comments concerning North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program a red line, Secretary Mattis stated that it is imperative to prevent North Korea from conducting more tests and that no options, including the use of force, should be taken off the table when it comes to dealing with North Korea. Secretary Mattis reaffirmed the United States' commitment to its allies' defense should North Korea attack. In a recent joint statement with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Intelligence Dan Coats, Secretary Mattis condemned North Korea's provocative actions in the Asia Pacific region and underscored the importance of working with allies in the region to combat the threat. He has also underscored the importance of working with allies and partners in the region to counter the threat posed by North Korea, including China. 

South China Sea

Secretary Mattis advocated for an inter-governmental approach to work with allies in the region in order to maintain stability in the South China Sea and counter China's expansion.

Southeast Asia/Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Secretary Mattis agreed that there needs to be a concerted effort to combat ISIS and other terrorist groups not just in the Middle East but also in Southeast Asia so these groups are not allowed to move from one region to the other. 

While attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June 2017, Secretary Mattis emphasized the importance of ASEAN and the United States' individual alliances and partnerships with ASEAN member nations, both at the Dialogue and during individual meetings in Washington, DC. 

Summits - APEC, East Asia (EAS), & US-ASEAN

 

Trade & Investment

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

To view quotations, statements, and interactions with Asia Pacific leaders by Secretary Pompeo, click here.

Official CIA Portrait of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Image: CIA

Asia Pacific Countries Traveled to:

  • Singapore flag. Image: Freepik South Korean flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.comChinese flag. Image: www.flaticon.comSingapore, South Korea, and China in June 2018.
  •  North Korean flag. Image: Flaticon. North Korea in April 2018.
  •  North Korean flag. Image: Flaticon. North Korea in April 2018. *Trip was made while still Director of the CIA.

Positions on Key Asia Issues:

Asia Pacific Allies & Partners

Secretary Pompeo has emphatically stated the continuance of US support and protection of US allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific against threats posed by North Korea and within the South China Sea.  

China/Taiwan

Secretary Pompeo has continued to advocate for increased pressure from China towards North Korea to counter the threat posed by North Korea's increasing nuclear capabilities.

Secretary Pompeo has briefly discussed US trade with China and how the bilateral economic relationship could influence US-China cooperation concerning North Korea. 

Human Rights & Democracy

 Secretary Pompeo has touched upon the humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingya minority in Myanmar

North Korea

Shortly before he was sworn in as Secretary of State, then CIA Director Pompeo met personally with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to lay the groundwork for the expected meeting between Leader Kim and President Trump later this year. Since being sworn in as Secretary of State, Secretary Pompeo has supported President Trump's focus on "maximum pressure" towards North Korea, which has taken the form of strong sanctions and international condemnation of the regime. 

South China Sea

Secretary Pompeo has pledged continuing US support for allies in the region in order to maintain stability in the South China Sea.

Southeast Asia/Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Secretary Pompeo has touched upon  the humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingya minority in Myanmar and the threat of militants from Southeast Asian countries like Thailand. 

Summits - APEC, East Asia (EAS), & US-ASEAN

 

Trade & Investment

Secretary Pompeo has briefly discussed US trade with China and how the bilateral economic relationship could influence US-China cooperation concerning North Korea. 

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Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Jr. 

To view quotations, statements, interactions with Asia Pacific leaders by Secretary Ross, click here.

Official Portrait of Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Jr.. Image: Department of Commerce.

Asia Pacific Countries Visited:

  • Chinese Flag. Image: Flaticon. China in May 2018. 
  • Chinese flag. Image: www.flaticon.comChina in September 2017. 
  • Japanese Flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.com Japan in April 2017.

Positions on Key Asia Pacific Issues:

Asia Pacific Allies & Partners

Secretary Ross and his team at the Commerce Department have enacted numerous pieces of legislation against countries across Southeast Asia whom they charge with dumping and countervailing duties on a wide range of products which find their way to the US market.

Following a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on May 31, 2017, both pledged $8 billion worth of new trde deals between the United States and Vietnam.

On a follow-up meeting with Economy Minister Seko in Tokyo on April 18, 2017, Secretary Ross expressed the Trump administration's desire to pursue a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. 

Secretary Ross has condemned China's unfair trade practices, including tariff and non-tariff barriers, dumping of Chinese products, and questionable investment practices in the United States. He also has seemed receptive to increasing trade with Taiwan, but has deferred to President Trump's decision given the sensitive nature of the topic. South Korean and Indian products such as steel and other building materials have also come under new anti-dumping measures undertaken by the Commerce Department. 

While there is no US-India Free Trade Agreement, Secretary Ross did not rule out the possibility of one in the future though there are no current plans to pursue one.

China/Taiwan

Secretary Ross has condemned China's unfair trade practices, including tariff and non-tariff barriers, steel dumping, and questionable investment practices in the United States. He also has seemed receptive to increasing trade with Taiwan, but has deferred to President Trump's decision given the sensitive nature of the topic. 

Human Rights & Democracy

 

North Korea

 Secretary Ross has discussed the ultility of the sanctions imposed upon North Korea following its recent missile tests, particularly the importance of China following through on its own pledges. 

South China Sea

 

Southeast Asia/Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Secretary Ross and his team at the Commerce Department have enacted numerous pieces of legislation against countries across Southeast Asia whom they charge with dumping and countervailing duties on a wide range of products which find their way to the US market.

Following a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on May 31, 2017, both pledged $8 billion worth of new trde deals between the United States and Vietnam.

Secretary Ross and his team at the Commerce Department have enacted numerous pieces of legislation against countries across Southeast Asia whom they charge with dumping and countervailing duties on a wide range of products which find their way to the US market.

Summits - APEC, East Asia (EAS), & US-ASEAN

 

Trade & Investment

Secretary Ross and his team at the Commerce Department have enacted numerous pieces of legislation against countries across Southeast Asia whom they charge with dumping and countervailing duties on a wide range of products which find their way to the US market.

Following a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on May 31, 2017, both pledged $8 billion worth of new trade deals between the United States and Vietnam.

On a follow-up meeting with Economy Minister Seko in Tokyo on April 18, 2017, Secretary Ross expressed the Trump administration's desire to pursue a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. 

Secretary Ross has condemned China's unfair trade practices, including tariff and non-tariff barriers, dumping of Chinese products, and questionable investment practices in the United States. He also has seemed receptive to increasing trade with Taiwan, but has deferred to President Trump's decision given the sensitive nature of the topic. South Korean and Indian products such as steel and other building materials have also come under new anti-dumping measures undertaken by the Commerce Department. 

While there is no US-India Free Trade Agreement, Secretary Ross did not rule out the possibility of one in the future though there are no current plans to pursue one. 

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Methodology: Policy materials and quotations from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are limited to after November 9, 2016 when they were formally elected as the 45th President and 48th Vice President of the United States, respectively. Policy materials and quotations from United States Trade Representative Ambassador Robert E. Lighthizer, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Jr. have been collated since their Senate confirmation hearings on March 18, 2017, January 12, 2017, and January 18, 2017, respectively. Should any quotations before the period be deemed relevant they will be indicated by an asterisk (*) after the date. In all cases, these additional quotations were made within the year prior to the start of the Trump Administration.  Flag icons that indicate which countries members of the Trump administration have traveled to are provided by Freepik, accessed through www.flaticon.com.