Ambassadors From Asia Plea for Continuity Under Trump Administration

Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey describes the history of American involvement in Asia and why it's crucial for President-elect Donald Trump to continue it. (3 min., 12 sec.)

Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump made many gestures that, if followed through on, would dramatically shake up the world order.

He promised to scrap international trade deals, questioned the utility of long-standing treaty alliances in Europe and Asia, and indicated a generally more inward-looking approach to the American role in world affairs. But since his election last month, the president-elect appeared to walk back some of these views. The question on the minds of many world leaders now is how much President Trump will resemble candidate Trump.

“There can't be any ambiguity in what you believe in if you are the world's superpower,” said Australian Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey on Tuesday. “You just can't be inconsistent, you can't be doubtful, and that's what America has been over the past few months.”

Hockey was speaking at Asia Society in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday alongside ambassadors from South Korea and Singapore to launch the new Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) briefing Advice for the 45th President: Opinions from Across the Pacific. The briefing includes commentary from influential leaders from across the Asia-Pacific with their hopes and advice for President-elect Trump.

“While we are in a domestic political environment here in the United States that may oftentimes reward change, and sometimes even disruption, many Asian leaders, as our authors noted, are actually looking for continuity,” said ASPI Director for Asian Security Lindsey Ford. “They value the long-standing role the United States has played in the region.”

South Korean Ambassador Ahn Ho-young invoked the recent 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, noting that the seven decades since the conclusion of World War II have been a “unique period of peace, stability, and prosperity” when set against the backdrop of human history. “I think it is possible because of the architecture we built together for security,” he said, pointing to treaty alliances and international organizations like the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization. “At the same time, let us think about who was behind this architecture — it was you, the United States of America, and we in Northeast Asia benefited enormously from this architecture.”

Hockey agreed with the need for American continuity in its role as an active world leader, saying that one would be hard-pressed to think of any other superpower in world history that other countries around the world have wanted to join to share the same values. This has been particularly true in the Asia-Pacific, where he noted that some 150,000 Americans soldiers are buried, having fought and died alongside Asian allies for their common values. Furthermore, he added, complicating trade with Asia would be an enormous strategic mistake.

“Two-thirds of the world's economic growth is coming out of Asia, so [the U.S.] has to engage,” Hockey said. “We're going to see at least 500 million additional people emerge in the middle class in Asia over the next 10 years, so if you want American manufacturing to turn into American exports, and then turn into consumption in Asia, you need to engage with Asia and trade with Asia.”

In the above video clip, Hockey discusses the necessity of Trump continuing the United States’ engagement with Asia. See the complete program in the video below. 

(L to R) Joe Hockey, Ahn Ho-young, Kevin Rudd, and Ashok Mirpuri share their hopes and advice for President-elect Donald Trump at Asia Society in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2016. (1 hr. 26 min.)

About the Author

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Eric Fish was a Content Producer at Asia Society New York and is author of the book China's Millennials: The Want Generation.