Sunday, September 30, 2018

"America First," "Belt and Road," "Mutually Advantageous Cooperation" and the Rise of the Global South: Preliminary Thoughts on Remarks by President Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (25 September 2018)

On Tuesday 25 September 2018, President Trump addressed the United Nations. This was his second speech to that body.  What most media focused on was the audience reaction (‘People actually laughed at a president’: At U.N. speech, Trump suffers the fate he always feared; Trump's UN speech triggered laughs: Is US leadership still serious?President Trump Boasted About His AccomplishmentsThe Latest: Trump says UN now feels like 'home').

Was there more to the speech than the reactions popularized in the press? Everyone will decide for themselves, of course.  The transcript of the speech (OFFICIAL VERSION Remarks by President Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (25 September 2018); and unofficial version here: Read Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly, VOX) follows. Video HERE. President Trump's speech becomes far more interesting, especially for its views on America Frst and trade when compared to that made by Wang Yi, Multilateralism, Shared Peace and Development,   Remark to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (28 September 2018). Video HERE; Transcript below.

In addition to the transcripts, I offer some brief thoughts. Avoiding the sometimes ridiculous panegyrics of dislike (but mostly of class based distaste) for this President and his administration (along with its hallmark cultural markers), I focus on convergence.  In this case, the remarkable alignment of American (bilaterally based) multilateral policy with that of the People's Republic of China, and with echoes of the core premises of foreign policy underlying Caribbean Leninism, for example in the form of Cuba-Venezuela's ALBA group.

The point, worth considering, is that the emerging America First policy better aligns with the progressive ideals of the Global South than it represents some sort of reactionary fever dream (e.g., here).  And that, perhaps, may be the most irritating part for those elements in the global North that continue to cling to a world view that may well be passing.  But ironically enough, for the authors and advocates of America First, this may also be quite irritating for precisely the opposite reasons.  What appears to serve the uniqueness of American sovereignty may well advance notions from the Global South.  And the embrace of this Global South sensibility at the heart of the Global North, may, like China's Belt and Road Initiative, produce "facts" for the Global South lamentably quite different from the expected "truth" in its premises.  An elaboration of these thoughts follow.

1. Laughing at (or With) the President. The now (in)famous and well reported laughter came very early in the speech in reaction to Mr. Trump's statement that his administration "has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country." His response to that laughter ("Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay") produced further laughter and applause.  This beginning adds nothing but confirms opinions that are either positive or negative about the President and his rhetorical style. But in the larger picture--that initial optics veils what may be the more interesting statements that follow. These initial paragraphs were meant as a set up to the more important materials that were to follow. But they were filled with the kind of braggadocio Western global elites find laughable when these words, put this way, come out of the mouth of of one of one of their own. Yet there was a point buried in there, one that took several paragraphs to get to, the assertion that: "the United States is stronger, safer, and a richer country than it was when I assumed office less than two years ago."

Yet that list of accomplishments was not important in itself. In context it might have been meant to serve as a legitimating foundation for the more important point that was to follow--one that lamentably might have been lost in the laughter. In a "seek truth from facts" ( 实事求是) style of argument, that point was that the way the United States was now prepared to explain the fact of its increasing prosperity  (i.e., that whatever was being done was working) was by reference to the "truth" of the Administration's "America First" Policy (i.e., that there was a theory or policy around which the fact of increasing prosperity could be understood and used). method to).  More importantly, the truth-from-facts set up was meant to go one step further--that the "truth" part was also good for the global order (and thus the line from the speech: "We are standing up for America and for the American people. And we are also standing up for the world."). Ironically, it is also that part of the Remarks that brings America First in closer alignment with core notions of Global South with a sovereignty enhancing multilateralism as the core value in inter-state relations (e.g., from the Cuban perspective here, and here).   

It is that part of the remarks that are especially worth considering (irrespective of one's political agreement with its premises or application). The object of such consideration is not necessarily to decide that one agrees. Rather, it is useful to abandon the conceit, born of the bitterness of the current Administration's political and cultural and intellectual enemies, that neither principle nor notions of the "public good" animate current policy. While it remains useful--as political strategy--to continue to indulge that sense among the masses and the press (now media); it creates an incentive toward misjudgment and miscalculation that can be avoided, though one that for its own purposes may well be cultivated by the Administration as well.

2.  America First. The President managed to boil down the principles that serve as the core vision of "America First" in a few short sentences.  The speech starts with the central premise of America First: "We believe that when nations respect the rights of their neighbors, and defend the interests of their people, they can better work together to secure the blessings of safety, prosperity, and peace."A number of premises appear to be conflated here.  The first is the notion, long held in developing states and championed by Cuba, for example, that every state has the overarching duty to protect and defend its people, that is to exercise its sovereign authority for the benefit of  those who whom the government created owes utmost loyalty. That duty must be expressed in its relations with other states.  Though notions of solidarity and mutual benefit may enhance such relations, the primary obligation is national and internal. The primary objective is the development of national productive forces measured against national understanding of safety, prosperity and peace.

Indeed, the alignment between the core principles of this first sentence--(1) international solidarity grounded in mutual respect, and (2) defense of the national interests in the form of enhancing the welfare of the people--align seamlessly with the core values of Socialist regional trade conceptualization, such as that of the Cuba-Venezuela Alianza Bolivariana (ALBA) (e.g., Cuba and the Construction of Alternative Global Trade Systems: Alba and Free Trade in the Americas).The difference, and an important one, are in the core normative values through which judgments are made about interests, and the notion of solidarity is understood.  But the methodology aligns, as does the structure of interaction within which trade, social and political relations may be built.

These core principles--solidarity, sovereignty and development--have long defined key discursive approaches of the Global South to trade and to the misalignment between a hegemonic Global North, and a the plantations that constitute the Global South. And yet here, the effect is quite different. It is one thing for the Global South to seek the refuge of sovereignty and solidarity against Global North Hegemony; it is quite another when the Global North fractures and adopts the same discursive approach.  The product of that embrace of the discourse of the Global South--as one will begin to see with greater clarity in both US America First relations, and Chinese One Belt One Road Initiative--may not produce equality.  Rather it is likely to produce relative advantage, whose benefits will be hard to measure across states.  Yet that is precisely the thrust of theoretical models such as the ALBA Socialist Regional Trade system, with its focus on asymmetric trade that is meant to be measured not against each of the participating states but rather within states for the quantum of national value added (e.g., (e.g., Cuba and the Construction of Alternative Global Trade Systems, supra).   It is in this light that Mr. Trump's reference to national diversity might be usefully read: "Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth."

And from this the consequential policy outcome follows: "That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination." That is an odd mixture of words for those who would tend to dismiss America First as simpleminded reactionary nativist economic jingoism. There is some care here in distinguishing between America First and America Only. The target of America First does not appear to be the people's of other states, but rather the construction of multilateral organizations with increasing governance and regulatory authority.  This produces the last element of America First--the "grand bargain" at the base of all relations with and by the United States: "I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return." It is between these two framing elements that the bargaining is framed.

The difficulty, for many, has been to extract meaning from these principles.  The great failure of that analysis has been based on the presumption that somehow it has a relation to the long arc of development of American multilateralism that reached its apogee under the Obama Administration. Yet that approach has not been helpful.  Rather than look back to the project of American elites after 1945, or to the practices of prior American administrations, it might be useful to shift focus from the Global North to the Global South. Indeed, it might appear that the Trump Administration has now moved--not BACK to the pre-1945 discourse--but forward to the discourse of the developed Global South.  The principles that make up America First might align better with the trade and multilateral principles of the Global South, than it might with the contemporary discourse of the Anglo-European Global North.  Consider the way that America First might vigorously embrace the principles of China's Belt and Road Initiative--built on its now internationalized  principle of mutually beneficial cooperation (On the Internationalization of China's "New Era" Theory: Brief Thoughts on the UN Human Rights Council Resolution: "On promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of human rights" (A/HRC/37/L.36)), but with American characteristics. It is worthwhile, then, to consider the principles of America First in the shadow of the new Global South (Chinese) driven human rights principle of "mutually beneficial cooperation." 

3.  America First in the Context of China's Mutually Beneficial Cooperation Principle. The Chinese principle of mutually beneficial cooperation has only recently been embraced by the governmental structures of international governance. With its adoption last year by the U.N. Human Rights Council (Resolution A/HRC/37/L.36; Background Brief may be downloaded HERE. Resumen en Español AQUI. 中国语言版本) the core concept was both elevated to higher status within the interpretive discourse of U.N. human Rights and collaterally into the structures of multilateral engagement.
To understand the meaning of the concept of "mutually beneficial cooperation" from the perspective of China, it is necessary to consider in some detail the development of the concept in the pronouncements of Xi Jinping and their translation into core elements of Chinese foreign policy (tied of course intimately with crucial objectives of national public policy). Those, in turn, represent an effort, over the course of the last several years, to expand and refine Mao Zedong's well known "Five Principles of Peaceful Co-Existence," of equality, mutual benefit and mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty. Those principles, expanded and refined, now make their way into the core of approaches to the project of human rights in Resolution A/HRC/37/L.36. (On the Internationalization of China's "New Era" Theory, supra.).
Mutuially beneficial cooperation is based on the notion of leadership around a shared vision of movement toward a progressively positive state. In this case, China has suggested that it is "drawing up a master plan for the continuation of reform in all respects. . . . . We will make overall planning for bilateral, multilateral, regional and sub-regional opening up and cooperation, and accelerate the implementation of the FTA strategy and promote communication and exchanges with our neighboring countries." (Xi Jinping, "Work Hand in Hand for Common Development", in Xi Jinping, The Governance of China 382-383 (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014)).

Here is the template for "mutually beneficial cooperation" emerging from the economic field, internationalized and then applied to the management of that cooperation for multilateral socialist modernization on its object, the refinement of the domestic and international project of human rights with national characteristics. But it is also a remarkable summary of the U.S. America First initiative. The principal object are domestic goals; those goals require the development of strong relational networks; those networks can be built in ways that produce mutual benefit, but which are entered into principally for the purpose of furthering the core central goals. The irony is then compounded when elites ready to participate in mutually beneficial cooperation with China find such a context offensive when advanced by the United States.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Speech To UN (28-09-18) VIDEO HERE

4.  America First as the American Road Initiative in the Shadow of China's Belt and Road Initiative. It is to the construction of an American Road to which the U.S. trade's relations appear now to be pointed. Consider the description of the Belt and Road Initiative from the words of Foreign Minister Wang Yi in his Remarks to the United Nations General Assembly on 28 September 2018:
The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by President Xi is a public good that China offers to the world. It has grown into the largest  platform for international cooperation.  It aims to deliver benefits for all through consultation and cooperation. The initiative is open, transparent and inclusive; it is based on international rules and law, and it aims to achieve green, environmentally friendly  and sustainable development. It is about pursuing common prosperity through greater complementarity among participating countries.  By September of this year, over 130 countries  and international organizations have signed agreements on Belt and Road cooperation with China. Next year, China will host the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, and we welcome all parties to go and attend this event. (Wang Yi, Multilateralism, Shared Peace and Development,   Remark to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (28 September 2018), Transcript p. 10).
This is a remarkable statement, especially when considered alongside those of the U.S. Administration, for its alignment with America First. But that alignment is not apparent without a consideration of what was not said.

First, the Belt and Road Initiative can be understood as a public good in the sense that it serves as a core framework around which bilateral collective arrangements may be made.  Those arrangements will be grounded in the principle of mutually advantageous cooperation--and will be tailored bilaterally. But they will all revolve around China at the core.  The notion of core and collective is central to emerging Chinese political ideology applied internally; it now appears to be reconstituted as a framework for external relations as well. There is nothing wrong with that. But it should be understood that a core-collective framework will invariably place China at the center. One might then query--to what extent does this align with the principles around America First? The differences between center and first will determine the character of a U.S.  core based trade regime versus a China core based trade regime.  But beyond that the frameworks appear to align in character and intent. To understand Belt and Road is to understand the internationalization of a Leninist variant of international trade grounded int he fundamental notion that all coherent trade systems requires a vanguard (a center or core) that provides structure and that coherence around a vision of mutual relations that push all partners in specific directions.  The America First project presents the Markets based variant, where the center serves as the guarantor of the integrity of a system of aggregating bilateral arrangements that constitute a market within which states can produce and extract value. 

Second, the notion of core, like that of first, does not merely put China at the center--it also then arranges all partners along spokes, all of which must run in and through the center. As between China and every one of its 130 Belt and Road Initiative partners there is a direct relationship.  But Belt and Road does not provide any space for relationships among partners that do not run through the center that is that are not mediated by China. The idea, like that of America First, is an aggregated bilateral multilateralism that is structured by and through rules and laws that are managed by the core--by the center. Mutual cooperation means cooperation with the center, but it does not suggest a framework for cooperation laterally without the intermediation of the core. That is what is underlined with the references to the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.  Without the core (the U.S. in America First, or China in Belt and Road) there is no framework.  And such a core requires a congress of united front elements to constitutes the universe within which, under the leadership of the core, the framework can align to the interests of all. 

Third, the resulting bilateral multilateralism is what Minister Wang thus references even as he redefines multilateralism by it.  It is in this sense that Belt and Road Initiative and America First almost perfectly align.  Both are built on the notion of mutual benefit for public goods in ways that advance national advantage (locally conceived)--Minister Wang's reference to complementarity. Both  are founded on bilateral agreements between China and a partner.  Both propose one state as at the center of these webs of bilateral relations.  And both treat the resulting web of bilateral agreement as a functional multilateral systems that has at its center the one state that is party to all of the agreement which constitute the network. All of this is undertaken for the best of reasons.  Minister Wang offers some that are popular among elites today--green, environmentally friendly  and sustainable development--all of which are equally plausible within America First bilateral structures.

But there is a difference.  And this difference may explain the way in which China's Belt and Road Initiative is greeted with (sometimes wary) warmth,  while America First is derided. That difference is bound up in the context in which America First emerged.  China is building its belt and road; the United States is seeking to reroute traffic onto a road very different from that on which trade had traveled in and through the U.S. President Trump, in his own way, highlighted this at the U.N.
For decades, the United States opened its economy — the largest, by far, on Earth — with few conditions. We allowed foreign goods from all over the world to flow freely across our borders.Yet, other countries did not grant us fair and reciprocal access to their markets in return. Even worse, some countries abused their openness to dump their products, subsidize their goods, target our industries, and manipulate their currencies to gain unfair advantage over our country. As a result, our trade deficit ballooned to nearly $800 billion a year.For this reason, we are systematically renegotiating broken and bad trade deals. (Trump UN Remarks)
The object in quoting the language is not to suggest that he is either right or wrong.  Rather it is to illustrate the context in which this new approach to trade is attempted. Where China's new road can produce curiosity and openness,  America rerouting will certainly produce anger and resistance, and all the more so to the extent that traditional advantage is challenged.

5. Public Multilateralism as the target of America First? It is against the construction of global managerial orders that America First is deployed. The America First policy is not meant merely to redefine the context in which U.S. international political and economic relations will be undertaken, but also the structures through which such potentially complex networks of relations are to be organized and managed. Ironically, it is against these structures that the Chinese also act--though in much less ostentatious ways. Mr. Trump focused on the U.N. Human Rights Council (from which the United States withdrew) and the International Criminal Court (Thoughts on John Bolton: Address to the Federalist Society, Washington, D.C. on US policy toward the International Criminal Court), whose authority the United States has rejected, as emblematic of what he suggested was the malaise and threat posed by an international order that would undermine sovereign rights. "America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism. Around the world, responsible nations must defend against threats to sovereignty not just from global governance, but also from other, new forms of coercion and domination." (Trump Speech). What emerges from the speech is a primitive sense that ad hoc multilateral action may be useful to deal with specific threats, but that the constitution of regulatory power in public international bodied breaches the fundamental sovereignty of states--and especially of the United States. This is a position tat would not merely reject the primacy of international law, but the legitimacy of assertions of governmental or regulatory authority by public bodies that are not states, or instrumentalities of states without autonomy.

6. Multilateralism in the private sector still possible?! If the United States is waging a battle against the encroachment of international organizations into the jurisdictions of states, traditionally understood (or at least as his administration has understood them), might there be any space left for multilateralism, and multilateral governance? The answer, surprisingly, may be a cautious yes. This United States Administration has no interest in and has doubted the legitimacy of governance authority vested in public international organizations. But it has not indicated an opposition to the construction and operation of private international organizations that exist and operate outside the traditional state sector. This is the space reserved, for example, to societal governance within the Second Pillar of the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. This is the space within which the post 1945 international order has created global standards in a variety of areas.  And ironically, it is likely also the area where non-state judicial mechanisms may well be situated--from ICSID and ad hoc grievance mechanisms.  For the current administration, this is the sort of multilateralism it might be prepared to tolerate.  But it is a project that would likely meet resistance form Marxist Leninist states, and in the West, ironically, from those elements that see in the state the principal source of legitimacy (unless the centrality of the state as policy is asserted by an unpopular world leader). 


Madam President, Mr. Secretary-General, world leaders, ambassadors, and distinguished delegates:

One year ago, I stood before you for the first time in this grand hall. I addressed the threats facing our world, and I presented a vision to achieve a brighter future for all of humanity.

Today, I stand before the United Nations General Assembly to share the extraordinary progress we’ve made.

In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.

America’s — so true. (Laughter.) Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay. (Laughter and applause.)

America’s economy is booming like never before. Since my election, we’ve added $10 trillion in wealth. The stock market is at an all-time high in history, and jobless claims are at a 50-year low. African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment have all achieved their lowest levels ever recorded. We’ve added more than 4 million new jobs, including half a million manufacturing jobs.

We have passed the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history. We’ve started the construction of a major border wall, and we have greatly strengthened border security.

We have secured record funding for our military — $700 billion this year, and $716 billion next year. Our military will soon be more powerful than it has ever been before.

In other words, the United States is stronger, safer, and a richer country than it was when I assumed office less than two years ago.

We are standing up for America and for the American people. And we are also standing up for the world.

This is great news for our citizens and for peace-loving people everywhere. We believe that when nations respect the rights of their neighbors, and defend the interests of their people, they can better work together to secure the blessings of safety, prosperity, and peace.

Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.

That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination.

I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship.

We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.

From Warsaw to Brussels, to Tokyo to Singapore, it has been my highest honor to represent the United States abroad. I have forged close relationships and friendships and strong partnerships with the leaders of many nations in this room, and our approach has already yielded incredible change.

With support from many countries here today, we have engaged with North Korea to replace the specter of conflict with a bold and new push for peace.

In June, I traveled to Singapore to meet face to face with North Korea’s leader, Chairman Kim Jong Un.

We had highly productive conversations and meetings, and we agreed that it was in both countries’ interest to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Since that meeting, we have already seen a number of encouraging measures that few could have imagined only a short time ago.

The missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction. Nuclear testing has stopped. Some military facilities are already being dismantled. Our hostages have been released. And as promised, the remains of our fallen heroes are being returned home to lay at rest in American soil.

I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps he has taken, though much work remains to be done. The sanctions will stay in place until denuclearization occurs.

I also want to thank the many member states who helped us reach this moment — a moment that is actually far greater than people would understand; far greater — but for also their support and the critical support that we will all need going forward.

A special thanks to President Moon of South Korea, Prime Minister Abe of Japan, and President Xi of China.

In the Middle East, our new approach is also yielding great strides and very historic change.

Following my trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Gulf countries opened a new center to target terrorist financing. They are enforcing new sanctions, working with us to identify and track terrorist networks, and taking more responsibility for fighting terrorism and extremism in their own region.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have pledged billions of dollars to aid the people of Syria and Yemen. And they are pursuing multiple avenues to ending Yemen’s horrible, horrific civil war.

Ultimately, it is up to the nations of the region to decide what kind of future they want for themselves and their children.

For that reason, the United States is working with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jordan, and Egypt to establish a regional strategic alliance so that Middle Eastern nations can advance prosperity, stability, and security across their home region.

Thanks to the United States military and our partnership with many of your nations, I am pleased to report that the bloodthirsty killers known as ISIS have been driven out from the territory they once held in Iraq and Syria. We will continue to work with friends and allies to deny radical Islamic terrorists any funding, territory or support, or any means of infiltrating our borders.

The ongoing tragedy in Syria is heartbreaking. Our shared goals must be the de-escalation of military conflict, along with a political solution that honors the will of the Syrian people. In this vein, we urge the United Nations-led peace process be reinvigorated. But, rest assured, the United States will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime.

I commend the people of Jordan and other neighboring countries for hosting refugees from this very brutal civil war.

As we see in Jordan, the most compassionate policy is to place refugees as close to their homes as possible to ease their eventual return to be part of the rebuilding process. This approach also stretches finite resources to help far more people, increasing the impact of every dollar spent.

Every solution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria must also include a strategy to address the brutal regime that has fueled and financed it: the corrupt dictatorship in Iran.

Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death, and destruction. They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.

The Iranian people are rightly outraged that their leaders have embezzled billions of dollars from Iran’s treasury, seized valuable portions of the economy, and looted the people’s religious endowments, all to line their own pockets and send their proxies to wage war. Not good.

Iran’s neighbors have paid a heavy toll for the region’s [regime’s] agenda of aggression and expansion. That is why so many countries in the Middle East strongly supported my decision to withdraw the United States from the horrible 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal and re-impose nuclear sanctions.

The Iran deal was a windfall for Iran’s leaders. In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget grew nearly 40 percent. The dictatorship used the funds to build nuclear-capable missiles, increase internal repression, finance terrorism, and fund havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen.

The United States has launched a campaign of economic pressure to deny the regime the funds it needs to advance its bloody agenda. Last month, we began re-imposing hard-hitting nuclear sanctions that had been lifted under the Iran deal. Additional sanctions will resume November 5th, and more will follow. And we’re working with countries that import Iranian crude oil to cut their purchases substantially.

We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons. We cannot allow a regime that chants “Death to America,” and that threatens Israel with annihilation, to possess the means to deliver a nuclear warhead to any city on Earth. Just can’t do it.

We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues. And we ask all nations to support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny.

This year, we also took another significant step forward in the Middle East. In recognition of every sovereign state to determine its own capital, I moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The United States is committed to a future of peace and stability in the region, including peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That aim is advanced, not harmed, by acknowledging the obvious facts.

America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies, and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again. This is true not only in matters of peace, but in matters of prosperity.

We believe that trade must be fair and reciprocal. The United States will not be taken advantage of any longer.

For decades, the United States opened its economy — the largest, by far, on Earth — with few conditions. We allowed foreign goods from all over the world to flow freely across our borders.

Yet, other countries did not grant us fair and reciprocal access to their markets in return. Even worse, some countries abused their openness to dump their products, subsidize their goods, target our industries, and manipulate their currencies to gain unfair advantage over our country. As a result, our trade deficit ballooned to nearly $800 billion a year.

For this reason, we are systematically renegotiating broken and bad trade deals.

Last month, we announced a groundbreaking U.S.-Mexico trade agreement. And just yesterday, I stood with President Moon to announce the successful completion of the brand new U.S.-Korea trade deal. And this is just the beginning.

Many nations in this hall will agree that the world trading system is in dire need of change. For example, countries were admitted to the World Trade Organization that violate every single principle on which the organization is based. While the United States and many other nations play by the rules, these countries use government-run industrial planning and state-owned enterprises to rig the system in their favor. They engage in relentless product dumping, forced technology transfer, and the theft of intellectual property.

The United States lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs, nearly a quarter of all steel jobs, and 60,000 factories after China joined the WTO. And we have racked up $13 trillion in trade deficits over the last two decades.

But those days are over. We will no longer tolerate such abuse. We will not allow our workers to be victimized, our companies to be cheated, and our wealth to be plundered and transferred. America will never apologize for protecting its citizens.

The United States has just announced tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese-made goods for a total, so far, of $250 billion. I have great respect and affection for my friend, President Xi, but I have made clear our trade imbalance is just not acceptable. China’s market distortions and the way they deal cannot be tolerated.

As my administration has demonstrated, America will always act in our national interest.

I spoke before this body last year and warned that the U.N. Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends.

Our Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, laid out a clear agenda for reform, but despite reported and repeated warnings, no action at all was taken.

So the United States took the only responsible course: We withdrew from the Human Rights Council, and we will not return until real reform is enacted.

For similar reasons, the United States will provide no support in recognition to the International Criminal Court. As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority. The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.

America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.

Around the world, responsible nations must defend against threats to sovereignty not just from global governance, but also from other, new forms of coercion and domination.

In America, we believe strongly in energy security for ourselves and for our allies. We have become the largest energy producer anywhere on the face of the Earth.

The United States stands ready to export our abundant, affordable supply of oil, clean coal, and natural gas.

OPEC and OPEC nations, are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world, and I don’t like it. Nobody should like it. We defend many of these nations for nothing, and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices. Not good.

We want them to stop raising prices, we want them to start lowering prices, and they must contribute substantially to military protection from now on. We are not going to put up with it — these horrible prices — much longer.

Reliance on a single foreign supplier can leave a nation vulnerable to extortion and intimidation. That is why we congratulate European states, such as Poland, for leading the construction of a Baltic pipeline so that nations are not dependent on Russia to meet their energy needs. Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course.

Here in the Western Hemisphere, we are committed to maintaining our independence from the encroachment of expansionist foreign powers.

It has been the formal policy of our country since President Monroe that we reject the interference of foreign nations in this hemisphere and in our own affairs. The United States has recently strengthened our laws to better screen foreign investments in our country for national security threats, and we welcome cooperation with countries in this region and around the world that wish to do the same. You need to do it for your own protection.

The United States is also working with partners in Latin America to confront threats to sovereignty from uncontrolled migration. Tolerance for human struggling and human smuggling and trafficking is not humane. It’s a horrible thing that’s going on, at levels that nobody has ever seen before. It’s very, very cruel.

Illegal immigration funds criminal networks, ruthless gangs, and the flow of deadly drugs. Illegal immigration exploits vulnerable populations, hurts hardworking citizens, and has produced a vicious cycle of crime, violence, and poverty. Only by upholding national borders, destroying criminal gangs, can we break this cycle and establish a real foundation for prosperity.

We recognize the right of every nation in this room to set its own immigration policy in accordance with its national interests, just as we ask other countries to respect our own right to do the same — which we are doing. That is one reason the United States will not participate in the new Global Compact on Migration. Migration should not be governed by an international body unaccountable to our own citizens.

Ultimately, the only long-term solution to the migration crisis is to help people build more hopeful futures in their home countries. Make their countries great again.

Currently, we are witnessing a human tragedy, as an example, in Venezuela. More than 2 million people have fled the anguish inflicted by the socialist Maduro regime and its Cuban sponsors.

Not long ago, Venezuela was one of the richest countries on Earth. Today, socialism has bankrupted the oil-rich nation and driven its people into abject poverty.

Virtually everywhere socialism or communism has been tried, it has produced suffering, corruption, and decay. Socialism’s thirst for power leads to expansion, incursion, and oppression. All nations of the world should resist socialism and the misery that it brings to everyone.

In that spirit, we ask the nations gathered here to join us in calling for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela. Today, we are announcing additional sanctions against the repressive regime, targeting Maduro’s inner circle and close advisors.

We are grateful for all the work the United Nations does around the world to help people build better lives for themselves and their families.

The United States is the world’s largest giver in the world, by far, of foreign aid. But few give anything to us. That is why we are taking a hard look at U.S. foreign assistance. That will be headed up by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We will examine what is working, what is not working, and whether the countries who receive our dollars and our protection also have our interests at heart.

Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends. And we expect other countries to pay their fair share for the cost of their defense.

The United States is committed to making the United Nations more effective and accountable. I have said many times that the United Nations has unlimited potential. As part of our reform effort, I have told our negotiators that the United States will not pay more than 25 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget. This will encourage other countries to step up, get involved, and also share in this very large burden.

And we are working to shift more of our funding from assessed contributions to voluntary so that we can target American resources to the programs with the best record of success.

Only when each of us does our part and contributes our share can we realize the U.N.’s highest aspirations. We must pursue peace without fear, hope without despair, and security without apology.

Looking around this hall where so much history has transpired, we think of the many before us who have come here to address the challenges of their nations and of their times. And our thoughts turn to the same question that ran through all their speeches and resolutions, through every word and every hope. It is the question of what kind of world will we leave for our children and what kind of nations they will inherit.

The dreams that fill this hall today are as diverse as the people who have stood at this podium, and as varied as the countries represented right here in this body are. It really is something. It really is great, great history.

There is India, a free society over a billion people, successfully lifting countless millions out of poverty and into the middle class.

There is Saudi Arabia, where King Salman and the Crown Prince are pursuing bold new reforms.

There is Israel, proudly celebrating its 70th anniversary as a thriving democracy in the Holy Land.

In Poland, a great people are standing up for their independence, their security, and their sovereignty.

Many countries are pursuing their own unique visions, building their own hopeful futures, and chasing their own wonderful dreams of destiny, of legacy, and of a home.

The whole world is richer, humanity is better, because of this beautiful constellation of nations, each very special, each very unique, and each shining brightly in its part of the world.

In each one, we see awesome promise of a people bound together by a shared past and working toward a common future.

As for Americans, we know what kind of future we want for ourselves. We know what kind of a nation America must always be.

In America, we believe in the majesty of freedom and the dignity of the individual. We believe in self-government and the rule of law. And we prize the culture that sustains our liberty -– a culture built on strong families, deep faith, and fierce independence. We celebrate our heroes, we treasure our traditions, and above all, we love our country.

Inside everyone in this great chamber today, and everyone listening all around the globe, there is the heart of a patriot that feels the same powerful love for your nation, the same intense loyalty to your homeland.

The passion that burns in the hearts of patriots and the souls of nations has inspired reform and revolution, sacrifice and selflessness, scientific breakthroughs, and magnificent works of art.

Our task is not to erase it, but to embrace it. To build with it. To draw on its ancient wisdom. And to find within it the will to make our nations greater, our regions safer, and the world better.

To unleash this incredible potential in our people, we must defend the foundations that make it all possible. Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived, democracy has ever endured, or peace has ever prospered. And so we must protect our sovereignty and our cherished independence above all.

When we do, we will find new avenues for cooperation unfolding before us. We will find new passion for peacemaking rising within us. We will find new purpose, new resolve, and new spirit flourishing all around us, and making this a more beautiful world in which to live.

So together, let us choose a future of patriotism, prosperity, and pride. Let us choose peace and freedom over domination and defeat. And let us come here to this place to stand for our people and their nations, forever strong, forever sovereign, forever just, and forever thankful for the grace and the goodness and the glory of God.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the nations of the world.

Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)


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