At the close of his speech to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC), President Donald Trump took a philosophical turn, echoing the words of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" as he outlined his vision for a world order rooted in nationalism.
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“Finally, let us never forget,” the president said, “the world has many places, many dreams and many roads, but in all of the world there's no place like home.”
Then, here at a forum of 21 Asian-Pacific nations designed to pursue common economic interests, Trump called for each country to take responsibility for pursuing its own self-interest.
“And so, for family, for country, for freedom, for history and for the glory of God, protect your home, defend your home and love your home today and for all time.”
It was a little odd to hear the president borrow a line from "The Wizard of Oz," but what he was really doing was articulating his Trump Doctrine. A doctrine that boils down to this: nationalism for America and nationalism for the rest of the world, too.
His message to the Pacific nations: The United States will pursue its own self-interest without apology, but it won’t try to impose its will or its values on other nations.
It’s the philosophy that made Trump a booster of Brexit over Europe and led him to withdraw from both the Paris Climate Accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Above all, it means the elevation of national interest over multi-lateral organizations, such as the United Nations and, even, the very organization he was addressing Friday in Vietnam.
The speech today marked the president’s toughest words on trade during his Asia trip –- vowing a much tougher approach to trade guided by the Trump Doctrine for nationalism for everyone.
“We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore,” the president said. “I am always going to put America first, the same way that I expect all of you in this room to put your country first.”
Declaring that America has long been taken advantage of by its trading partners, the president put the blame squarely on previous administrations, Democratic and Republican, whom he portrayed as patsies on trade.
“I do not blame China or any other country of which there are many, for taking advantage of the United States in trade,” the president 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. They did not, but I will.”
He had also said “I don’t blame China” while he was in Beijing. But here in Vietnam, the president went on at length about U.S. concerns regarding China’s unfair trade practices.
“We will no longer tolerate the audacious theft of intellectual property,” he said. “We will confront the destructive practices of forcing businesses to surrender their technology to the state and forcing them into joint ventures and exchange from market to excess. We will address the massive subsidizing of industries through colossal enterprises that put private competitors out of business.”
He didn’t mention China as he went through this litany of unfair trade practices -– a litany that also included cyber-attacks and corporate espionage –- but there was little doubt what country he was referring to.
Tough words, but words said here in Vietnam and not in China. When he was in China, standing next to the leader of the country accused of doing all of those things, Trump largely avoided talking about them. In China, the president, for the most part, pulled his punches.