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The Trump Administration's Contradictory Far East Trade And Security Policies

The Trump Administration's Contradictory Far East Trade and Security Policies

The two most important foreign policy goals of all American presidential administrations from the very beginning of our republic have been foreign trade and national security. These two goals have usually been intertwined and have always posed enormous challenges.

Sometimes what is best for national security can be a detriment to foreign trade and vice versa. That is why virtually every administration has agonized over the policies and decisions in these areas. They have also invested as many hours of research possible to study all aspects and effects of these policies to maximize the efficacy of their decisions and minimize any possible damages.

President Donald Trump has turned these tried and true processes on their heads. He has stated repeatedly that he believes he is the smartest man around. Therefore he relies on his own gut reactions. The problem with this method is that he often ties his policies into incoherent knots.

My goal within this Hub is to lay out what the traditional United States policies have been since World War II. I will show how these policies have created a usually coherent foreign trade and national security approach albeit one that has at times failed or only partially succeeded.

I will then examine President Trump's Far East trade and security policies focusing on their strengths, weaknesses, and contradictions. Finally I will attempt to show how all of these varied policies are working or failing to work in conjunction with each other.

These successes and failures will affect our relations with all of the Far East nations as well as their perceptions of us. Hopefully I will have been successful in shining some light on these issues and offering my own ideas on how to navigate through these dangerous areas.

The United States emerged from World War II as the clear international military and economic power. No other nation was close. Our national leaders on both sides of the political aisle decided to eschew the historical path of " to the victors go the spoils". Instead they placed their emphasis on rebuilding the economies of most of the world including its recently vanquished enemies.

America did this most dramatically in Europe with the Marshall Plan but also in the Far East with Japan and its neighbors. We demanded the dismantlement of Japan's military state but we also facilitated the conditions for the steady rebuild of their infrastructure and economy.

The U.S. also proved to be a bulwark against Communist expansion in the Far East as well as the rest of the world. This allowed Japan and the smaller "tiger" countries to grow quickly and flourish. Did America do this out of purely altruistic impulses? Certainly not though there was a large humanitarian component.

American political leadership realized that the rapid expansion of the battered world's economies would create a much wider and stronger market for its own industries. It would also create strong political allies. This duality in U.S. foreign policy including in the Far East has not changed much in the post World War II era up to now.

It is true that the United States had swung more aggressively in the national security direction when Russia and China were aggressively expanding during the Cold War era. Recent presidential administrations have realized that the Pacific Asian nations are the fastest growing region in the world. Therefore it is in America's economic interest to forge stronger and less aggressive ties to them.

Our economic future is indelibly tied to our relationship with these Pacific Rim nations. The George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations saw this trend clearly. Their high level intensive trade talks would lead to the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2016. The Obama administration knew that there were still pressing security issues in the Far East. They also knew that partnering with these nations would greatly assist them in security negotiations especially in regards to North Korea.

This brings us to the advent of the Donald Trump administration on January 20, 2017. Nothing regarding America's foreign policies including in the Far East would remotely remain the same. He immediately attacked China's economic policies as protectionist without using any diplomatic nuance.

Many of the President's ardent supporters argued that this extreme stance was long overdue and that China had been given a free ride on its trade policies for at least thirty years. This economic view has been shared by all administrations over this period but were always met with strong diplomatic negotiations and some sharp public rebukes.

Why would President Trump go so bombastic in his public criticisms compared to past administrations? I think the answer lies within his past business and entertainment roles. His early professional life was not marked by mutual and respectful negotiations.

Later in his real estate career he would conduct "scorched earth" business practices such as often failing to pay contractors and vendors in full to maximize his profits. This most times resulted in nasty legal proceedings. He would also publicly excoriate business adversaries for his own advantage.

He had a total disregard for his own reputation within the business community. Maintaining his public image and brand while scraping every cent of profit regardless of the means were his professional creed.

These familiar traits have remained the same for President Donald J. Trump. He has been publicly brow beating China to open up their markets and loosen their currency policy. The President also threatens to impose tariffs upon them if they do not comply. This tactic is clearly being used to bully them into trade capitulations.

At the same time, he publicly praises China's leader Xi Jinping while offering to remove sanctions on its national telecommunications company ZTE Corporation. These sanctions were imposed because they violated international sanctions on Iran and North Korea. These actions represent President Trump's typical "bait and switch" tactics. He often used them in his real estate negotiations and he has obviously retained this tactic. The big question is how this will ultimately affect U.S. businesses and the American people.

Now we turn to President Trump's Far East foreign policy. Here the major issues revolve around North Korea's nuclear program. This program is an existential problem to both the United States and our allies including those that are neighbors to North Korea.

The Trump administration began its term sending highly charged accusations against North Korea which continued on for over a year. President Trump was especially virulent and demeaning to North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. The result was that North Korea "snubbed their noses" at President Trump and accelerated the testing of their nuclear program.

The initial problem in President Trump's reactions to Kim Jong Un's nuclear provocations was his clearly adolescent responses to them. Yes, the North Korean leader has proven to be an especially reactionary and ridiculous public figure. Past administrations have addressed him judiciously to rally support around our actions and reactions to his provocations.

This has now become increasingly difficult for our allies in the face of our President's tantrums and threats. Furthermore the Trump administration has proven to be unreliable due to its reneging on prior Presidential administration's international agreements.

The principal arms agreement that President Trump pulled out of was the Iran nuclear agreement. This accord took several years of delicate negotiations to reach. It sends exactly the wrong signal to North Korea. They have also pulled out of, or threatened to do so, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and TPP trade agreements. President Trump also withdrew from the Paris climate accord.

How does North Korea make sense of these actions? The Trump administration has also compared the North Korean talks to the Libyan model. The former President of Libya, Muammar Gaddaffi, agreed to an accord to renounce his program of weapons of mass destruction in late 2003. In return the West gradually removed sanctions against his regime. He was overthrown in 2011 and was quickly killed by insurgents without any denunciations from Western nations. What can North Korea infer from this comparison?

The Trump administration then announced that they were finally going to impose strong tariffs on some Chinese imports which infuriated their leaders. China is North Korea's strongest ally and their influence and economic aid are vital to their existence. How creating a trade war with China will help the U.S. in North Korean nuclear negotiations is anyone's guess.

The Trump administration was thrown a surprising piece of good luck in 2017 though no one knew it at the time. South Korea elected Moon Jae-in as their President in May of 2017. He is a former human rights lawyer and ran primarily on a platform to seek a rapprochement with North Korea.

Tensions between the two Koreas almost instantly decreased. High level negotiations soon followed and North Korean missile tests stopped. It was obvious that North Korea wanted a change in its relationship with South Korea and possibly the world. South Korea was listening.

This led to President Trump taking notice and dispatching his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to North and South Korea for exploratory talks. The results have finally, after fits and starts, turned into a United States-North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

Where does this leave us in regards to our Far East foreign trade and security policies? On one hand North Korea's nuclear escalation has halted and they are eager to discuss possible peace issues. Of course previous administrations have been attracted by similar situations and North Korea has always violated any agreements.

Previously we have entered into these nuclear talks where both our allies and our adversaries were in agreement with the definitions of the goals of the summit. There has been almost no groundwork set on this meeting as to what the definition of a nuclear free Korean peninsula is. Only two or three meetings between Secretary of State Pompeo and North Korean officials have been held.

Instead President Trump has publicly asserted that he will rely on his gut instincts in any negotiations. He enters these talks without any support from his European allies or China due to his belligerent and short sighted protectionist trade policies. Only South Korea and Japan are backing him and even they are very wary about President Trump's erratic actions. They have seen him "back stab" allies and thus are very worried.

President Trump's real estate career is checkered with stories of his signing contracts and often reneging on paying contractors and associates when he thinks he can get away with it. He has been doing the same thing on the world political stage. He makes agreements with political leaders on both both sides of the American aisle and does the same with world leaders. Then he obfuscates or outright reneges on them when it is beneficial to him.

Now the Trump administration is heading at full speed into a trade war with China while also conducting the same war with his allies in Europe and North America. He imposed tariffs against China while holding out the promise to remove sanctions against ZTE corporation. It is a schizophrenic trade policy and one that is detrimental to all. China has reciprocated with tariffs against the U.S. especially in the agricultural sector.

All of this comes on the heels of his Singapore summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. He claims this summit was historic and successful. It was certainly historic being the first of its kind with a North Korean leader. Successful is a different story.

He gave Kim the equality of status on the world stage with an American president. In return President Trump received only vague promises of getting rid of their nuclear weapons with no details or timeline. The President also rewarded Kim with the promise of ending all joint United States and South Korea war drills. This was also a massive concession where we received nothing in return.

What kind of a great deal maker does this make President Donald Trump? I believe it portrays him as a naive political leader who is more interested in the photo op and domination of the news cycle rather than what is important for United States security.

My belief is that virtually no other leaders on the world stage are ever assured of President Trump's consistency and reliability in regards to his policies. It has already been proven that he will change course on a whim or because of a story on FOX news.

North Korea and China are two countries that have been accused of deceptive policies by American leaders. President Trump is now being accused of the same behavior on the world stage with good reason. Furthermore they see the President's penchant for extreme personal vanity and they now can take full advantage of it.

These are prescriptions for disaster in the Far East and on the rest of the world stage. Combine this with the President Trump's lack of knowledge about world issues and absolute lack of desire to learn more about them augurs extreme trouble for the United States and its relations with the rest of the world.

I sincerely hope this condition will change in the White House but I have grave doubts that it will. Buckle up everyone. This is going to be a very bumpy and dangerous ride on the road of world politics for at least the next two and a half years.

Comments

Howard Schneider (author) from Parsippany, New Jersey on July 21, 2018:

Thank you very much for your comments, Lawrence. I defer to your assessment of Russia's production at the end of WW II. I also agree that America usually did not treat smaller countries as equals and more like children. But we did try to aid and raise countries out of their economic morass after that war. Not always for altruistic purposes but at least partially so. Time will tell about Trump's policies. I believe they will prove disastrous. The tariffs could lead to a world wide recession. His North Korean summit produced nothing and I believe he is Putin's puppet due to past economic loans he received to prop up his so-called economic empire from Putin allies. Thank you for your alternative take from a non-American perspective. Once again, we will see.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on July 20, 2018:

Howard

Very interesting Hub. I must say from the outset that I probably disagree with you in a number of areas, but I'll try to explain them.

WW2. America wasn't the 'dominant force' after WW2. Yes, she'd been the economic powerhouse the world needed at the time, but records show that by the end of the War the Russians were outstripping the Americans in their production, the biggest difference was theirs was a 'command economy' and very inflexible, but they far outstripped America in manufacturing output.

The Allies (Churchill at least) did have a plan to deal with that, but the plan was considered too unthinkable to even try (it involved re-arming Germany and attacking Russia)

Post WW2

Most American Presidents since WW2 have treated places in the Far East and places like North Korea and Iran as 'adolescent children' and got nowhere.

New Zealand took a different approach, maybe because we're a small place, but we treated them as equals, and the results have been good, with borders opening up for our trade (America kept her borders closed to us because we wouldn't allow Nuclear powered Warships into our waters, we were treated like a spoiled child!)

President Trump has taken China to task, simply because he thinks that everyone should be treated the same, North Korea is actually talking peace, and Nuclear Disarmament simply because he began talking to them as equals!

Iran is still working out how to talk with the new Administration, but after thirty years of being treated like a child, it's going to take time for them to work out how things should be done.

Will Trump's policies work out? Well if you consider that the car with the most parts actually made in the USA is actually a Japanese brand (a Nissan Sedan with 75% of its parts made in the USA followed by the Honda Accord with 70% of parts made in the USA!) maybe the big wake up call will come to Detroit and places like GM who're making their cars in Mexico?

I didn't like Trump, and I still am not fond of the man, but from afar, his policies seem to finally have some good sense to them, and America is getting back to work.

I've tried to stay out of the politics in the USA mainly because it's not my government, but from what I see, he's taken some steps that needed to be taken to protect not just America, but the rest of the world.

Howard Schneider (author) from Parsippany, New Jersey on June 25, 2018:

Thank you for your comments, Larry.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 25, 2018:

Intersting analysis.

Howard Schneider (author) from Parsippany, New Jersey on June 18, 2018:

I totally agree with you, Gilbert. President Trump's policies have turned our view of logical and compassionate policies on its head. He only cares what will get him publicity and higher ratings. His border policy of separating families is heartless and disgusting. His statements that this is due to Democratic past policies is complete bull. Thank you for your comments.

Gilbert Arevalo from Hacienda Heights, California on June 18, 2018:

I agree with you, Howard, and now with the border problem, the world of politics has entered an unpredictable and bumpy ride in more ways than one.

Howard Schneider (author) from Parsippany, New Jersey on June 17, 2018:

President Trump gave up military exercises in the area which will greatly decrease our readiness. The Kims have wanted this for decades. The economy will tank in a year or so because the vast amount of our citizenry, the middle and lower class, will be squeezed out with lower benefits. The gutting of Dodd-Frank will allow Wall Street to speculate again up to the hilt and again the house of cards will tumble. The latest massive tax cut was a great transfer of wealth to the rich. Speaker Ryan and his cohorts will now cut benefits to the middle and lower classes massively. Trump said he wouldn't but he will sign it because he is a compulsive liar. The undocumented aliens problem has been caused by the business community. They have always skirted laws and usually pay them off the books below minimum wage. Those that have been here for many years and paying into our system should be allowed to remain. Only if they have no criminal record. Finally a National Sales Tax would hit the middle and lower classes the most percentage wise. It would be a very cruel tax for those already poor.

Brad on June 17, 2018:

President Trump's policies in the Far East are incoherent as I stated and detailed in this Hub They are contradictory and incoherent. He wings it because he feels he is the smartest man in the world. Unfortunately this is not a NYC real estate deal. He has given everything to Kim that he wanted in this summit for nothing concrete in return.

B:

You totally bypassed the details of my comment, and chose to show your condensing attitude.

He didn't give Kim anything, as the agreement doesn't release sanctions, or give him anything but to further negotiate.

And stop using CNN MSNBC for you opinion. Kim already had world recognition as a leader.

-----------------------------

As for your other comments that were not dealt with in this Hub,

B:

I took you hub and copied it into my comment, and answered the. How ridiculous that you can say that they were not dealt with in your hub. They were your premise!

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President Trump's strong economy is a result of President Obama's prudent economic policies that put our economy on a stronger footing.

B:

Really, than how come Obama didn't accomplish the same results?

---------------------------

Now Trump and the GOP have thrown fiscal conservatism out the window and given the upper class an unnecessary tax cut.

B:

Asked and answered

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The boost to the economy will last a year and then things will implode.

B:

How will that happen?

--------------------

You take funds away from the middle and lower classes and then cut benefits,

B:

Who is taking these funds?

-------------------------------

you then shut off the spigot of spending from the people who actually have to spend to live.

B:

What are you talking about?

=====

His policies are cruel to the bulk of our populace and will create a massive recession especially after eliminating the needed Dodd-Frank regulations. Wait and see

B:

What policies?

The democrats didn't even offer a policy. Like you they are just wishing for something bad to happen. What is worse Trump actually having a policy, or the democrats not having a policy?

The latter is worse.

---------------

. Thank you for your comments Bradmaster, even if they were mostly off topic.

B:

Mostly off topic?

You couldn't answer my comment because you only have hate Trump like the rest of the democrats. These democrat politicians have done nothing, and I mean nothing since and before Trump became president.

Their entire political platform is the same as the loser HRC.

We hate Trump, we are not Trump. I lost her the election, and it is losing the midterm for them now.

Resisting Trump is the same thing as resisting the Country and the people. The illegal aliens that are the target for the democrats cost the US about $100 billion a year in both direct and indirect costs. The only benefit from illegal aliens is for the people that hire them. They get free education, free medical, and welfare that costs the taxpayers, and takes away funds that could be used for the country.

They are the reason we pay uninsured motorists on our insurance. They don't really pay taxes, and they send much of their money back to Mexico. They fill up our prisons and jails and then democrats given the Convicted Illegal Alien Felons sanctuary. The open borders cost a lot of money for the Border Patrol and the courts that have to process large numbers of those that are caught.

How does any of that benefit the Americans, legal immigrants and the country?

History since WWII shows the decline of the US, and 2008 is a fact.

The cause of wealth disparity in the US is not Tax Cuts but the Internal Revenue Code that both parties have filled with Tax loopholes that only benefit the rich. 1986 Tax Reform Act took away most of the few deductions that could be used by wage earners.

The IRC allowed Bill Gates and other US Billionaires to double their billions since 2008. Even Warren Buffet agrees that they are getting away lightly on taxes.

A National Sales Tax which is similar to the State Sales Tax would do away with the tax loopholes in the IRC. It would reduce the IRS from a Criminal enforcement of tax codes to an audit function.

The NST would for personal taxes remove the IRS from its existing duties. CPAs would find other work more in line with their main function which is accounting.

Finally, the history of the US on the policies that you mention in this hub are etched in stone. And they failed, and while Trump is just starting you want to judge them.

TDS

Howard Schneider (author) from Parsippany, New Jersey on June 16, 2018:

President Trump's policies in the Far East are incoherent as I stated and detailed in this Hub They are contradictory and incoherent. He wings it because he feels he is the smartest man in the world. Unfortunately this is not a NYC real estate deal. He has given everything to Kim that he wanted in this summit for nothing concrete in return. As for your other comments that were not dealt with in this Hub, President Trump's strong economy is a result of President Obama's prudent economic policies that put our economy on a stronger footing. Now Trump and the GOP have thrown fiscal conservatism out the window and given the upper class an unnecessary tax cut. The boost to the economy will last a year and then things will implode. You take funds away from the middle and lower classes and then cut benefits, you then shut off the spigot of spending from the people who actually have to spend to live. His policies are cruel to the bulk of our populace and will create a massive recession especially after eliminating the needed Dodd-Frank regulations. Wait and see. Thank you for your comments Bradmaster, even if they were mostly off topic.

Brad on June 16, 2018:

"The two most important foreign policy goals of all American presidential administrations from the very beginning of our republic have been foreign trade and national security. These two goals have usually been intertwined and have always posed enormous challenges.

Sometimes what is best for national security can be a detriment to foreign trade and vice versa. That is why virtually every administration has agonized over the policies and decisions in these areas. They have also invested as many hours of research possible to study all aspects and effects of these policies to maximize the efficacy of their decisions and minimize any possible damages.

President Donald Trump has turned these tried and true processes on their heads"

B:

Are you serious? Tried and true from the 1970s through 2016 the US was in decline and in one war and another. We lost all these wars, especially Vietnam. We are still fighting in Afghanistan.

2008 after almost two years of everyone in congress plus Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were too busy campaigning for reelection, of the presidency. During that time, no one them considered the economy as the critical issue. Then shortly before the election, the economy failed.

These politicians looked like deer in the headlights. They wound up spending $750 billion under GW Bush, and another $750 billion under Obama.

They bailed out the banks and institutions that caused the failure, but they never they even try to help the victims of their failure.

This was the culmination of bad economic decisions for several decades. Reagan came into office when the prime interest rate was over 20%, and Clinton presided over the dot com bubble. Then GW Bush had 911, and then started two major wars. Great for the defense industry but not much else. Also during his time, a new bubble started. That bubble was the real estate loan bubble.

This was created and fanned by both parties, and it was the death of the economy.

In 8 years the Obama economy had GDP high of about 2%, and look where the Trump GDP is double that.

Tried and true indeed, if you want to replicate terrible results. The Trump presidency is restructuring our failures into wins.

.

He has stated repeatedly that he believes he is the smartest man around. Therefore he relies on his own gut reactions. The problem with this method is that he often ties his policies into incoherent knots.

My goal within this Hub is to lay out what the traditional United States policies have been since World War II. I will show how these policies have created a usually coherent foreign trade and national security approach albeit one that has at times failed or only partially succeeded."