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Trump to tell China to end 'predatory' trade practices

US President Donald Trump is set to embark on a five-nation trip to Asia on November 5, which will take him to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

world Updated: Oct 23, 2017 22:33 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
File photo of of President Donald Trump speaking in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington on July 24, 2017.
File photo of of President Donald Trump speaking in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington on July 24, 2017. (AP)

President Donald Trump will tell China to “cease predatory trade” practices, such as denying US firms free access to its domestic market and stealing intellectual property rights, during his visit to Beijing as part of his five-nation trip to Asia, his first since taking office.

Trump will underscore his commitment to long-standing US alliances and partnerships and reaffirm “leadership on promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific”, a senior White House official said on Monday, previewing the visit to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines starting on November 5.

The use of the word “predatory” for China was interesting, coming just days after secretary of state Rex Tillerson used it, also for China, in a policy speech on India ahead of his visit to South Asia. He used it to describe Beijing’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific and its regional connectivity projects.

“We need to collaborate with India to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability and growing prosperity – so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics,” Tillerson had said, in a speech marked by rare blunt-speak on China.

In China, Trump will ask Beijing to do more on North Korea, the official said, and send a “clear message” that for bilateral economic relations to be sustainable over the long term, “China must provide fair and reciprocal treatment to US firms and cease predatory trade and investment practices”.

Asked to define “predatory”, the official joked it would take him half an hour to go through the list which, he indicated, was long. He named a few items to make his point, such as forced technology transfer, IPR theft and market access — “not a single American web company has succeeded in China”.

Trump has spoken of other problems with China. The “colossal” deficit the US has in bilateral trade is one of them and will figure in his interactions with President Xi Jinping, whom he had hosted for their first meeting at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, in April.

New Delhi will follow Trump’s Asia visit closely, especially the China leg, for these and other issues, including regional connectivity and Beijing’s aggressive Belt and Road Initiative. There is also a possibility of a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Manila.

Trump’s remarks and discussions on “free and open Indo-Pacific”, which was stressed as a key area of the trip by the official, will be tracked closely in India, which has the same concerns as the US and littoral states about the disputed South China Sea which Beijing claims.

Trump will leave Washington on November 3, but travel to Hawaii first. He starts the Asia visit on November 5 in Japan, where he will pitch for a free and open Indo-Pacific. He will then go to South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.