Trump to Asia-Pacific Summit: 'I Am Always Going to Put America First'

November 10, 2017

President Donald Trump pitched his "America First" trade policy to world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang, Vietnam on Friday, saying, "We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore."

During his remarks, Trump repeatedly criticized "unfair trade practices" and countries "taking advantage of the United States in trade."

"While we lowered or ended tariffs, reduced trade barriers, other countries did not open their markets to us," Trump said. "The current trade balance is not acceptable."

He also blamed other countries' trade practices in part for lost jobs in America's manufacturing sector.

"Jobs, factories, and industries were stripped out of the United States and out of many countries in addition," he said. "And many opportunities for mutually beneficial investments were lost because people could not trust the system."

"We can no longer tolerate these chronic trade abuses. And we will not tolerate them," Trump said.

Still, Trump did not blame other countries for "taking advantage" of the U.S. in trade.

"I do not blame China or any other country, of which there are many, for taking advantage of the United States on trade," he said. "If their representatives are able to get away with it, they are just doing their jobs."

"I wish previous administrations in my country saw what was happening and did something about it," Trump added. "They did not, but I will."

"From this day forward, we will compete on a fair and equal basis. We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore," Trump said.

"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," he said to applause.

Trump told the world leaders who were present that he is willing to work with each of them to negotiate bilateral trade agreements that ensure "mutually beneficial commerce," taking into account the interests of both countries.

Overhanging Trump's remarks was his decision earlier this year to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a landmark 12-nation trade agreement struck under the Obama administration with Pacific Rim countries that was never ratified by the U.S. Congress.

During the final year of the Obama administration, Japanese officials expended significant political capital to negotiate TPP, BuzzFeed News reported.

"[Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo] Abe put himself at great risk with his own nation's powerful farming lobby," said Harry Kazianis, an Asia scholar at the Center for the National Interest. "It makes sense that he would not take on more of his own home industries to give Trump a better deal than TPP."

The Trump administration has argued that TPP was a bad deal that was unfair to American workers.

"The reality is that there are greater prospects through bilateral engagement, and greater—higher standards can be achieved," one administration official said.