As a businessman, U.S. President Donald Trump saw strength in his willingness to keep multiple balls in the air and change approach as they fell. In international relations, that unpredictability may be proving a liability.
In recent days, Trump’s sudden policy reversals on everything from tariffs to nuclear non-proliferation have prompted complaints from allies and rivals alike. Such flexible negotiating tactics — laid out in Trump’s 1987 book “The Art of the Deal” — have led them to question America’s reliability as a negotiating and, in some cases, security partner.
With defense ministers from around the world convening Friday for the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue security conference in Singapore, questions around U.S. reliability are likely to rival familiar concerns about China’s growing military assertiveness.
“A lot of delegates will be asking the questions they started asking last year about U.S. consistency and its determination to carry on a full defense of the rules-based international order,” said John Chipman, director general of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, which organizes the event at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore.
Read a QuickTake on how Trump is treating trade as a national security issue
Trump’s moves have put long-standing alliances under strain and created opportunities for China — which has already displaced the U.S. as the top trading partner for most Asian nations — to conduct outreach of its own. Amid U.S. tariff threats in April, China and Japan held their first trade negotiation in eight years.
Fresh in the minds of delegate are Trump’s decisions to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, abandon a trade ceasefire with China, remove exemptions for some allies on steel and aluminum tariffs, and cancel — and then revive — his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The summit moves blindsided two key Asian allies: South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had just returned from Washington, and Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe.
“I’m lost” when it comes to Trump, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said during a speech in Brussels on Thursday, just before the U.S. confirmed it would impose new steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico.
Source: Trump’s Art of Unpredictability Starts to Backfire Overseas – Bloomberg