Trump Kept One Eye on Re-Election in Asia With His Push for Deals

Tuesday, 14 November 2017, 08:13:14 PM. President Donald Trump asked Vietnam’s prime minister why his country wasn’t buying more American military equipment, in a meeting that was a microcosm of his 11-day Asia tour.
President Donald Trump had one question for Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc: Why wasn’t his country buying more American military equipment? For Trump, a self-styled traveling salesman, crisscrossing the region to reverse decades of trade deficits, Vietnam’s decision to buy arms from Russia was incomprehensible, almost insulting. Never mind that U.S. law prevented such sales until last year. Trump reminded Phuc that he’s been president for 10 months, according to two people who requested anonymity to discuss a private meeting. What was he waiting for? He needed quick wins, he told his team in the room, because he’d be running for re-election before anyone realized. And weapons sales, in Trump’s view, are good for his approval ratings. The meeting was a microcosm of the president’s 11-day tour through Asia, a marathon trip where Trump was repeatedly lavished with flattering gestures by foreign leaders, but frustrated in his desire to score quick wins on trade or North Korea that would buoy him politically back home. Asian nations were looking for signs Trump hadn’t abandoned the region when he pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in January. The White House seemed to suggest the sheer length of the trip was proof enough, with both Trump and his aides referenced it again and again. Regional Expectations Local leaders were looking for seriousness and not just stamina, any sign Trump was prepared to provide a potent counter-balance to China. There, he...Read more
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