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Trump Parched During Animated Defense of Asia Trip

America first trade message has resonated, president says

South Korean President Moon Jae-In shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during the joint press conference at the presidential Blue House on November 7, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean President Moon Jae-In shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during the joint press conference at the presidential Blue House on November 7, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump delivered a passionate defense Wednesday of the “America first” trade policy he sold during his recent Asia swing

At one point the president became so animated he ducked behind his podium in search of water.

Speaking for over 20 minutes during an event that was not added to his schedule until midday, Trump told the American people his message during the trip had been received loud and clear by Asian leaders.

“My message has resonated,” Trump said, adding that 21 regional leaders at a conference in Vietnam “recognized” his presidency means they must abide by his demands for “fair and reciprocal trade.”

The president’s remarks focused mostly on trade relations. He said he delivered a “firm warning to every country that cheats, breaks the rules and engages in economic aggression” that he will not tolerate such tactics.

Those actions, which he largely blames on past U.S. presidents, are “why we have an almost $800 trillion trade deficit with other nations — unacceptable.”

Those calls are an outgrowth of candidate Trump’s speeches across the United States railing against China and other countries he continues to say take advantage of America when it comes to buying U.S. items and selling theirs here.

“We have established a new framework for trade” that will “benefit the United States and our partners,” he declared from the Diplomatic Reception Room.

On the North Korea threat, Trump said: “We have laid out a path to peace and prosperity.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping will employ “economic leverage” against North Korea, he said.

“This is our beautiful vision for our future,” he said, adding that is “only possible if American is strong, proud and free.”

“As long as we are true to ourselves … no goal is too large,” Trump said. “America is back and the future has never looked brighter.”

He touted his relationships with Xi other world leaders and said his Asia tour and meetings with regional leaders secured deals to sell U.S.-made goods or other investments across the region. He provided some detail of what he previously said was a “minimum” of $300 billion in deals: $12 billion for Vietnam, $8 billion for Japan and $58 billion in South Korea — leaving $222 billion undetailed.

“The one common thread behind all of these problems was the failure to protect the interests of the American people and American workers,” Trump said.

The president sometimes delivers TelePrompter remarks with a subdued cadence. Not Wednesday while talking about trade. Trump spoke in loud and animated tones, but his speech around the 10-minute mark became increasingly slurred.

Trump took a long pause from his prepared remarks to search for a bottle of water, first beneath his podium then on a table beside it. A reporter in the room offered help, saying: “To your right, sir.” Trump found a bottle of water, opened it, and took a drink before continuing his remarks.

As a candidate, he criticized Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for doing the same while delivering the GOP response to President Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address. Rubio quickly responded with a tweet giving the president tips on how to handle the situation next time.

Social media lit up after the president’s gaffe, but Trump quickly returned to his speech focused almost entirely on policy.

Democrats have responded to Trump’s long haul across the Asia-Pacific with skepticism.

Even before the president wrapped his remarks, Ben Rhodes, a former national security adviser to Obama, criticized Trump on Twitter for boasting about attending two conferences with other world leaders during his Asia swing. Like other Democrats, including lawmakers, Rhodes asked: “What did he actually accomplish on this trip other than further eroding America’s strategic and moral leadership?”

“It’s worth asking, what did America get out of his trip?” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday.

“Did he forcefully confront the Chinese leaders about our imbalanced and unfair trade system, where we play by the rules, and they do not? No,” the New York Democrat said on the Senate floor. “Did President Trump engage the various regional powers in a project of great importance to the region: curtailing and containing the rogue North Korean regime? No.”

Schumer gave the same answer for Trump pressing leaders in the region on a number of human rights issues. (White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the matter came up briefly during his one-on-one meeting with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who Schumer said is “engaged in a vicious campaign of extrajudicial killings.”)

The top Senate Democrat said Trump “lectured and unsettled our allies while emboldening our adversaries like China and Russia, treating them with kid gloves.”

“All in all, President Trump’s trip to Asia was a flop,” Schumer said. “He seemed far more interested in pomp and circumstance — red carpets, fancy meals, and the flattery of foreign leaders.”

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