DA NANG, Vietnam -- President Donald Trump delivered a full-throated defense of economic nationalism, telling a Pacific Rim summit Friday that America will defend its commercial rights and won't enter into multilateral trade agreements that "tie our hands."
Mr. Trump, addressing business leaders at the 21-country Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, said America has been treated unfairly by the global trading system and by bodies that underpin its rules, such as the World Trade Organization.
"We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of any more," he said.
"I will make bilateral trade agreements with any Indo-Pacific nation that wants to be our partner and will abide by the principles of fair and reciprocal trade. What we will no longer do is enter into large agreements that will tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible."
Mr. Trump's views on trade have pitted the U.S. trade delegation here against the other members of the economic summit, echoing previous disagreements with world leaders seen at the Group of Seven major economies and Group of 20 developing and industrialized nations.
In his address, Mr. Trump said the U.S. had previously sought to open its markets to the world but had suffered as a result, as other countries failed to reciprocate, stole intellectual property and unfairly supported their state enterprises.
"They engaged in product dumping, subsidized goods, currency manipulation and predatory industrial policies," he said.
The president has frequently accused China of such actions, though he didn't single out Beijing when outlining these alleged transgressions on Friday.
He added that he would put America first and expects Pacific nations do to the same for their own countries.
Mr. Trump arrived in Vietnam from Beijing, where he spent the previous two days with Chinese President Xi Jinping and whom he praised on Thursday as a "very special man." Mr. Trump said he had spoke openly with Mr. Xi about Beijing's trade practices and the U.S. trade deficit with China.
Mr. Xi addressed the APEC forum a short time after the U.S. president Friday. In his speech, the Chinese leader pledged to uphold multilateralism and described globalization as an irreversible trend.
The APEC bloc, which comprises nations that account for about half of global trade, including China and Japan, acts as a forum to discuss economic issues such as drivers of regional trade and investment. It provides a venue for executives of global companies to rub shoulders with world leaders.
The Trump administration says it wants to rewrite the rules of global trade to make them fairer, emphasizing bilateral trade agreements, rather than sweeping trade pacts that organizations such as APEC traditionally support. That approach breaks from previous U.S. administrations, which led talks for regional trade pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership before Mr. Trump said the U.S. wouldn't continue with the agreement.
Following Mr. Trump's speech, his U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, issued a statement saying he was ready to execute the pivot in American trade strategy articulated by Mr. Trump, one focused more on using the clout of access to the U.S. market to wrest concessions from Asian countries, rather than U.S. leadership and example to foster greater market liberalization.
"The president spoke loud and clear: The era of trade compromised by massive state intervention, subsidies, closed markets and mercantilism is ending," Mr. Lighthizer said. "The United States will no longer allow these actions to continue, and we are willing to use our economic leverage to pursue truly fair and balanced trade."
Later Friday and Saturday, Mr. Trump is scheduled to meet with the other APEC heads of government in a closed-door retreat, before he flies to Hanoi for a meeting with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. He then travels to the Philippines for a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and a summit with Southeast Asian leaders over the weekend.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 10, 2017 08:56 ET (13:56 GMT)