FRUITFUL TRIP: Trump said his trip had seen progress in his goal of narrowing trade deficits –
Manila: Donald Trump said he had done “a really fantastic job” on a five-nation tour of Asia in which he had made a lot of friends, but he ended it abruptly Tuesday by skipping most of a Philippine summit.
The US president, who began his journey in Japan 12 days ago, said his trip had seen progress in his goal of narrowing America’s trade deficits.
“I’ve made a lot of friends at the highest level,” Trump told reporters shortly before boarding Air Force One in Manila, adding the trip was “tremendously successful”.
“I think the fruits of our labour are going to be incredible,” he said, later predicting an already unveiled $300 billion worth of trade deals “is going to be quadrupled very quickly” to over a trillion dollars.
He offered no evidence for this assessment. “It’s been a really great 12 days,” he said. “I think we have done a really fantastic job.”
Before leaving, Trump gathered briefly with 18 other world leaders ahead of the start of the East Asia Summit, the final set piece of his trip.
The former reality TV star had initially planned to skip the summit, then backtracked after criticism it could be seen as a snub.
But he did not stay for the official start of the summit on Tuesday afternoon, also missing the preceding group photo with his fellow leaders.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sat in for him at the summit, which was scheduled to run into the evening.
The summit groups the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations with Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Russia, as well as the United States.
In a trip that was dominated by the North Korean nuclear crisis, Trump was treated to pomp and pageantry in Japan and South Korea, where he repeatedly blasted the regime of Kim Jong-Un.
Aboard Air Force One, he claimed success “in terms of North Korea and getting everybody together. I think their acts are all together”.
In China, where President Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet for a “state visit plus” — a welcome Trump declared “people really have never seen anything like” — the White House trumpeted more than $250 billion of trade deals.
Analysts say the headline figure hides a paucity of deliverables, with lots of the agreements being non-binding memorandums of understanding.
They say many will take years to yield results and some will never materialise.
En route to Hawaii, however, Trump was bullish, predicting a rapid closing of American trade deficits.
“I think one of the things we really accomplished big is relationship, and also letting people know that from now on, things are going to be reciprocal,” he said. “We can’t have trade deficits of $30, $40, $50 billion; $300 billion in the case of China. We can’t do that. We have to have reciprocal trade. — AFP