Vietnam — President Trump revived his tough talk on trade Friday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit here, warning that he will not allow “the United States to be taken advantage of anymore.”
Speaking to a gathering of business leaders, Trump demanded trade “on a fair and equal basis,” and returned to his campaign rhetoric, promising to place the United States first in global deals and agreements.
“We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore,” he said, speaking shortly after arriving in Vietnam, his penultimate stop on a five-country, 12-day swing through Asia. “I am always going to put America first, the same way that I expect all of you in this room to put your countries first.”
But the president’s more fiery and protectionist tone Friday offered a stark departure from just a day earlier, when on Chinese soil in Beijing, Trump seemed reluctant to press his case as sharply with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
There, Trump lavished praise on Xi, touting their “great chemistry” and saying that he did not blame China — a line he has repeated since — for the trade imbalance that had become a trademark of his aggressive campaign rhetoric.
The president has previously expressed admiration for strongmen leaders, including authoritarian rulers and even dictators, which might explain his reluctance to confront Xi so directly head-on. Trump arrived in China as Xi had just consolidated his power at China’s Party Congress in October.
On Friday, Xi spoke directly after Trump, and the U.S. president’s remarks, which came on more friendly soil to the United States, seemed at least obliquely aimed at China. Trump expressed concerns about intellectual property, ensuring “fair and equal market access,” product dumping, currency manipulation, predatory industrial policies, and freedom of navigation.
When he did mention China by name, it was to rehash his “excellent trip” to the country, where he said he and Xi discussed “China’s unfair trade practices and the enormous trade deficits they have produced with the United States.”
Trump also reiterated his previous line, which he also tweeted, that he does not blame China — or any other nation, for that matter — for a trade imbalance.