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President Donald Trump has said the US will no longer tolerate “chronic trade abuses”, in a defiant address at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit in Vietnam.He said he would always put US interests first and Apec nations should “abide by fair reciprocal trade”.In stark contrast, China’s Xi Jinping said globalisation was irreversible and voiced support for multilateralism.Mr Trump has visited China and Japan as part of his five-nation Asia tour.Apec brings together 21 economies from the Pacific region – the equivalent of about 60% of the world’s GDP.Since taking office, President Trump has pursued his “America First” agenda and pulled the US out of the regional Trans-Pacific Partnership – a major trade deal with 12 Apec nations – arguing it would hurt US economic interests. What did Trump say?In a speech in the Vietnamese port city of Da Nang on Friday, President Trump railed against the World Trade Organization, which sets global trade laws, and said it “cannot function properly” if all members do not respect the rules. He complained about trade imbalances, saying the US had lowered market barriers and ended tariffs while other countries had not reciprocated. “Such practices hurt many people in our country,” he said, adding that free trade had cost millions of American jobs. But he did not lay the blame on Apec countries, and instead accused earlier US administrations of not acting earlier to reverse the trend.He said America would make bilateral agreements with “any Indo-Pacific partner here who abides by fair reciprocal trade”, but only “on a basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit”.
Mr Trump has repeatedly referred to the region as “Indo-Pacific”, a term used to define America’s new geopolitical view of Asia.”Indo-Pacific” – Trump’s latest catchphraseThe US president had travelled to Da Nang from Beijing, where he had also discussed America’s huge trade imbalance with China. There too, he said he did not blame the country for “taking advantage”.America’s narrowing role in Asia-PacificBy Jonathan Head, BBC South East Asia correspondentThis was a strong, confident speech by President Trump giving two starkly contrasting messages. He opened with glowing praise for the achievements of the Asia Pacific region. He listed most of the larger members of APEC, his flattery bringing applause from the audience, none louder than that which greeted his description of Vietnam’s 2000-year struggle for statehood. He brushed over the Vietnam War. Then came a list of America’s grievances on trade. His reference to currency manipulation, and forcing companies to give up their intellectual property to get market access were clearly directed at China. Instead of multilateral arrangements, he offered new, bilateral agreements with countries prepared to give America a better deal.Mr Trump made no mention of the leadership the US has traditionally offered, in values, economic philosophy and military alliances. There was no mistaking the narrower role he sees for the US in the Asia Pacific region.How did his speech compare to Xi’s?Speaking minutes after his American counterpart, Chinese President Xi Jinping took to the podium to espouse his country’s credentials as the new champion of world trade. Globalisation, he said, was an “irreversible historical trend” but the philosophy behind free trade needed to be repurposed to be “more open, more balanced, more equitable and more beneficial to all”.In contrast to President Trump, the Chinese leader defended multilateral trade deals, which he said helped poorer nations to benefit.”We should support the multilateral trading regime and practise open regionalism to allow developing members to benefit more from international trade and investment.” How are US-China trade relations?The total trade relationship between the US and China was worth $648bn last year, but trade was heavily skewed in China’s favour with the US amassing a nearly $310bn deficit.Mr Trump has in the past accused China of stealing American jobs and threatened to label it a currency manipulator, though he has since rowed back on such rhetoric.During the US president’s visit on Thursday, China announced it would further lower entry barriers in the banking, insurance, and finance sectors, and gradually reduce vehicle tariffs.
Mr Xi promised “healthy” and “balanced” economic and trade relations.Deals worth $250bn (£190bn) were also announced, although it was unclear how much of that figure included past agreements or potential future deals. At the same time, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told journalists the deals were “pretty small” in terms of tackling the trade imbalance.Trump vs Xi: The two men comparedBefore the Beijing talks, Mr Trump in Tokyo lashed out at Japan, saying it “has been winning” on trade in recent decades. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also be making a speech at the Apec summit. Japan had a $69bn (£52.8bn) trade surplus with the US in 2016, according to the US Treasury department.
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After attending the Apec summit, Mr Trump will pay a state visit to the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. Mr Trump will end his 12-day Asian tour in the Philippines on 13 November.