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Trade high on agenda as Trump tours Asia

Asia / 08-11-17 / by
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Trade is high on the agenda for Donald Trump’s whistle stop tour of Asia, with the US president making deals on energy and infrastructure.

Trump touched down in China today, accompanied by a large delegation from the energy sector. The US entourage is expected to seal deals to export LNG to China, signalling a shift away from the aggressive rhetoric towards China during last year’s election campaign.

Ahead of Trump’s arrival, Goldman Sachs teamed up with the sovereign China Investment Corporation to launch a US$5bn investment fund for US manufacturers, details of which are to be announced on his visit to Beijing.

“If we saw something on LNG that could be a game changer for the trade deficit, which seems to be the main objection of the Trump administration,” Tom Rafferty, Asia manager at the Economist Intelligence Unit tells GTR.

There may also be some movement on a service sector agreement, which China has officially committed to opening up, but this is unlikely to go as far as adjusting the joint venture requirements for banking and insurance, Rafferty says.

Trump’s first state visit to East Asia has already brought him to Japan, where agreements were reached on energy and infrastructure, and South Korea, where he further threatened North Korea and urged China and Russia to join the US-led sanctions regime aimed at the rogue state.

In Japan, meetings on the sidelines of the state visit saw Japan’s export credit agency and insurer sign memoranda with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic, the US government’s development finance arm) to jointly invest in infrastructure projects in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

The Japanese and US governments also established an energy partnership which will boost US LNG exports to Asia.

Trump blasts deficit

Trump’s trip to Tokyo was not without controversy, however. He lambasted the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for flooding the US with automotive imports, despite the fact that a significant portion of the Japanese branded cars sold in the US are made in the US.

This was no shock, however, given the forceful anti-globalisation ticket on which Trump ran for office, to which he has frequently returned since his election.

“I am not surprised with his comments on specific industries. It’s the aggressive way he is trying to get jobs back to the US. If you look at his campaign, the focus was on jobs and wages. Whether it makes sense from an academic trade perspective is completely irrelevant in the Trump calculus. He’s continuing to discuss jobs and wages in manufacturing,” says Tony Nash, the chief economist at Complete Intelligence, a Singapore-based research firm.

Throughout the week, the subject of trade deficits has been a popular talking point for Trump. His views are notoriously reductive and have been criticised by some experts for being misleading.

“He has the view that deficits are bad and surpluses are good, which is very naïve. They’re mutual gains from trade. Imports help you export. So this idea that you have to balance bilateral trade relationships is silly. I have a persistent bilateral trade deficit with my hairdresser. I pay him for my haircuts but he doesn’t pay me for economic advice, but that’s not a problem. The main issue is that overall I am able to accommodate my individual bilateral deficits with restaurants, hairdressers and the like through a specific relationship, which is my work with the Asian Development Bank (ADB),” Jayant Menon, lead economist at the ADB, tells GTR.

Later this week, Trump will visit Vietnam, for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Da Nang, before travelling to the Philippines for an East Asia Summit in Manila.

In a delicious twist of irony, Trump could be in Da Nang when a meeting of trade negotiators finalise the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement from which he withdrew the US upon entering the White House in January.

The TPP-11 hope to conclude their agreement at the summit, with Japan thought to be lobbying strongly to get it over the line. Meetings have been ongoing this week, with Canada and New Zealand said to be keen to work through problematic areas, rather than thrashing out a deal in Vietnam.

Last week, GTR reported that New Zealand’s new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, was set to oppose the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses of the TPP, after pressure from her coalition partners in government.

However, in an interview with Bloomberg today, Ardern’s tone had softened. She said: “There are clear benefits for our exporters in this agreement. New Zealand does not have the access to, for instance, the Japanese market that the Australians do. This would bring benefits to our beef industry, our wine industry, our kiwifruit industry.”

She also appeared to admit that her efforts to remove ISDS from the agreement at this late stage may be doomed to fail: “Our objective has been to raise the issue, to pursue it as far as we’re able. I acknowledge that there are competing interests and competing timelines from other member states. We accept that it is very late in the piece.”

For Trump, security is likely to top the agenda here and at the East Asia Summit in Manila, but it is also likely that his team will be putting in some groundwork for bilateral trade deals.

“Trump has made it clear that he’s keen on doing bilateral deals. So far there’s not been much action on trade or anything else but this could be the chance to start talking with individual countries, because that’s his preferred modality going forward, not these mega-regional deals,” Menon says.

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To turn cookies and similar technologies on and off, see the information in paragraph 5 above. Any questions regarding consents and opt-outs should be sent by e-mail to privacy@gtreview.com or by writing to Data Protection Officer at, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, 4 Hillgate Place, London, SW12 9ER, United Kingdom. Alternatively, you can telephone our London headquarters at +44 (0) 20 8673 9666.

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Information collected at one Site may be shared between Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd and other group companies for the purposes listed above.

We may transfer, sell or assign any of the information described in this policy to third parties as a result of a sale, merger, consolidation, change of control, transfer of assets or reorganisation of our business.

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Services on the Internet are accessible globally so collection and transmission of personal data is not always limited to one country. Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd may transfer your personal data, for the above-listed purposes to other third parties, which may be located outside the European Economic Area and/or with a different level of personal data protection. However, when conducting transfers, we take all necessary steps to ensure that your data is treated reasonably, securely and in accordance with this Privacy Statement.

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We are committed to keeping the data you provide us secure and will take reasonable precautions to protect your personal data from loss, misuse or alteration.

However, the transmission of information via the internet is not completely secure. Although we will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to our Site; any transmission is at your own risk. Once we have received your information, we will use strict procedures and security features described above to try to prevent unauthorised access.

We have implemented information security policies, rules and technical measures to protect the personal data that we have under our control from:

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Everyone who works for or with Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd has some responsibility for ensuring data is collected, stored and handled appropriately. Each team handling personal data must ensure that it is handled and processed in line with this policy and data protection principles. However, the following people have key areas of responsibility. The board of directors is ultimately responsible for ensuring that Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd meets its legal obligations.

Name of Data Controller


The Data Controller is Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd. Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd is subject to the UK Data Protection Act 1998 and is registered in the UK with the Information Commissioner`s Office.

How to access, update and erase your personal information

If you wish to know whether we are keeping personal data about you, or if you have an enquiry about our privacy policy or your personal data held by us, in relation to any of the Sites, you can contact the Data Protection Officer via:

  • By writing to this address: Data Protection Officer, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, 4 Hillgate Place, London, SW12 9ER, UK
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Upon request, we will provide you with a readable copy of the personal data which we keep about you. We may require proof of your identity and may charge a small fee (not exceeding the statutory maximum fee that can be charged) to cover administration and postage.

Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd allows you to challenge the data that we hold about you and, where appropriate in accordance with applicable laws, you may have your personal information:

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Disclosing data for other reasons

In certain circumstances, the Data Protection Act allows personal data to be disclosed to law enforcement agencies without the consent of the data subject. Under these circumstances, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, will disclose requested data. However, the Data Controller will ensure the request is legitimate, seeking assistance from the board and from the company’s legal advisors where necessary.

Changes to this Privacy Statement

We will occasionally update this Privacy Statement to reflect new legislation or industry practice, group company changes and customer feedback. We encourage you to review this Privacy Statement periodically to be informed of how we are protecting your personal data.

Providing information

Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd aims to ensure that individuals are aware that their data is being processed, and that they understand.

  • How the data is being used
  • How to exercise their rights

To this end, the company has a privacy statement, setting out how data relating to individuals is used by the company. This is available on request and available on the company’s website.

Review of this policy

We keep this Policy under regular review. This Privacy Statement was last updated in April 2018.