Will the American Election Affect US Foreign Policy in Asia?

Nov 4, 2016

The two main candidates for president of the United States have spoken about a lot about Asia during the election campaign.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are critical of trade deals with Asian nations. They have different opinions about U.S. defense policies in East Asia.

Some observers have noted that America's interests overseas remain consistent. And, they say, the problems facing the next president are complex.

Both Clinton and Trump have been critical of free trade deals. That is especially the case with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The candidates might be reacting to growing public anger. Many Americans have blamed international trade for the loss of jobs over the past 20 years.

The U.S. Congress has yet to approve the TPP. It is unclear whether lawmakers are willing to vote on the agreement after the elections next week.

During election campaign stops, Clinton and Trump have each said they do not support the TPP. Clinton changed her position from 2012 when she called the deal the "gold standard in trade agreements." Four years ago, she was serving as Secretary of State. Trump has also voiced his opposition to the TPP, calling it a bad deal.

Trade delegates appear after signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in Auckland, New Zealand in February.

Supporters of the agreement, however, note that it is meant to open up markets in Asian and Pacific countries to American companies. The deal is also meant to balance China's expanding economic influence in East Asia.

The TPP's supporters note that, if approved, the deal would include 12 nations, including Japan. Those countries are responsible for 40 percent of world trade.

China policy an important campaign issue

Trump has accused China of manipulating the value of Chinese money to make its exports less costly to other countries. He has threatened, if elected president, to use high taxes on Chinese goods to punish China for its actions.

Some economists say measures such as these could cause a trade war.

Clinton has been more critical of human rights abuses in China. And she has criticized the Chinese government for its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Professor Xie Tao teaches political science with Beijing Foreign Studies University. He says public criticism of China has been strong during the election campaign. But he says the criticism tends to soften after the elections. Xie notes this was the case with Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton. As president, he decided not to link Chinese human rights issues to trade.

Candidates differ on answer to North Korean threat

How the United States should answer threats from North Korea also has been a campaign issue.

Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state, has voiced support for strong military alliances with South Korea and Japan to counter North Korea's weapons programs. She also wants to continue working with China to increase economic restrictions on the North Korean government.

Trump has suggested another plan of action. China is North Korea's main ally and trade partner. The businessman says he would pressure the Chinese government to force North Korea to stop its nuclear activities.

China has joined the United Nations Security Council in ordering sanctions on North Korea. But, it is unwilling to cause the collapse of the North, which would likely result in a unified Korea under the control of South Korea.

In addition, Trump has called on South Korea and Japan to support more of the cost of the U.S. military presence in those countries. At times, he has suggested that the allies might be permitted to develop nuclear weapons as protection against North Korea.

Professor Kim Hyun-Wook is with the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul. He says some changes may take place under the next president, but the alliance will remain strong.

"There might be some tensions and adjustment and refinement, but I think the alliance will be very solid."

The U.S. military has visibly placed bombers and fighter jets in East Asia. It is also seeking to deploy the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea. Both China and Russia have criticized the proposed deployment.

I'm Mario Ritter.

VOA's Brian Padden reported this story with additional information from reporter Bill Ide in Beijing. Mario Ritter adapted the story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

How do you think the election will affect us foreign policy in East Asia? Let us know in the comment section below.


Words in This Story

consistent – adj. staying about the same over time

gold standard – n. the best example of something

manipulate – v. to deal with in a controlling way, often unfairly

tend – v. to behave in a certain way often

counter – v. to do something in response to something else

visibly adj. in a way that can be noted or observed