US President Donald Trump ended Tuesday a marathon tour of Asia that, although it was smooth, did not result in any significant progress or dissipate the uncertainty that surrounds his strategy in this part of the world.
“It was a red carpet ordeal like nobody had ever seen,” said Trump, visibly happy, who called the trip “very successful.”
Golf and gala dinner in Tokyo, opera and Forbidden City in Beijing for a “state visit” and, in Seoul, a presidential toast in honor of a man who “is already returning his greatness to America.”
The tenant of the White House, a rookie in diplomacy and not enthusiastic about long trips, avoided taking bad steps and seemed quite comfortable.
But, beyond the studied photos, there are still doubts about the concrete impact of this tour.
From Tokyo to Manila, passing through Seoul, Beijing and Hanoi, the septuagenarian president stressed two priorities: put pressure on North Korean nuclear threat and open better access to Asian markets for US companies.
But the balance of these twelve days, which will take shape over time, could be modest.
“If you compare the before and after of Trump’s Asian tour, nothing has really changed in the question of North Korea,” says Asong Institute’s Myong-Hyun AFP, a think tank based in Seoul.
Beijing, Pyongyang’s first economic partner, “has not promised anything new,” he sums up.
Some experts point out, however, that talks between the presidents of the first two world powers could bear fruit in the medium term.
“Xi Jinping received Donald Trump very well, the relationship between the two countries is relatively stable. In that context, it will not reject the demands of the latter in a bloc, “predicts Cheng Xiaohe, a professor at Renmin University within Beijing.
And, on the subject of trade exchanges, did President Donald Trump change the situation?, after accusing his democratic and republican predecessors of not having been firm enough for decades?
Beijing announced it’s intention to expand the access of foreign companies to its financial sector, but the fine points remain numerous and still up in the air.
Aware of not having reached spectacular concessions, the US president highlighted a set of contracts worth 300,000 million dollars.
But many of these are merely letters of intent and do not alter anything in the long-term for the abysmal trade deficits of the United States.
Cheng Xiaohe believes that these contracts are only “painkillers that offer a temporary band-aid in the commercial disputes between China and the United States.”
In any case, regarding the long-term relationships in this crucial region for the United States, the trip proved disappointing.
In a major speech in Danang, Vietnam, which recalled his campaign rallies, which chanted the slogan “America First” (United States first), Trump presented his country as a victim of “chronic commercial abuse” and criticized with an unusual violent anger about the multilateral agreements that “tie the hands” of Washington.
For Ryan Hass, former adviser to Barack Obama for Asia, the presidential trip reinforced the impression that “the region is moving forward and accelerating, while the United States looks from behind”.
Hass cites, in particular, the decision of 11 Asia-Pacific countries to implement the free trade agreement (TPP) that Trump suddenly abandoned, as well as Xi Jinping’s calls to embrace an “irreversible” globalization that contrasts with nationalism economic development of its American counterpart.