US Foreign Policy

Stimson Experts Analyze President Trump’s First 100 Days

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From terrorism to North Korea, from trade to the environment — President Trump took office facing a crowded inbox of global challenges. Today, experts from the nonpartisan Stimson Center released statements analyzing the successes and shortcomings of President Trump’s first 100 days in office:   


“Thus far the Trump administration has deemphasized if not reversed the Obama administration’s strategy of countering China’s fast growing role and influence through closer engagement with Southeast Asia. Policy changes affecting Southeast Asia and the 10-country Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) include withdrawing from TPP and backing away from confronting China’s unfair trade and currency practices, as well as Beijing’s aggressive and illegal moves in the South China Sea. The stakes are high given Southeast Asia’s geostrategic position astride major international trade routes, the emerging U.S. security partnership with Vietnam — left in lurch by the abandonment of TPP — and ASEAN’s status as the fourth largest export market after Canada, Mexico and China.”
 Richard Cronin, Distinguished Fellow, Stimson Center

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“While Iran and North Korea captured President Trump’s nuclear attention these first 100 days, some larger nuclear policy issues have yet to be addressed. Does the U.S. want to continue along the “Atoms for Peace” path and advance peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and then accept the deal struck in the Non-Proliferation Treaty of trading advancement for commitments: for non-nuclear-weapon states not to develop weapons while weapon states reduce their nuclear arms? Or should the U.S. rethink that entire deal? The answer should inform not only the Nuclear Policy Review but also U.S. support for its troubled nuclear industry and IAEA.”
 Debra Decker, Senior Advisor; WMD, Nonproliferation, and Security Program; Stimson Center

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“Inaction during President Trump’s first 100 days on forming an effective foreign policy approach to mainland Southeast Asia is allowing China to chip away at U.S. advancements gained under the previous administration. Trump might see mainland Southeast Asia as the frontier of U.S. foreign policy, but the region is the front line of constructive, head-on engagement with China’s outbound policies. For instance, to partially respond to the impact of China’s investment in the region, the U.S.-led Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) takes advantage of the U.S.’s impressive stock of soft power and technical expertise to assist mainland Southeast Asian governments with critical development needs, particularly in the infrastructure and energy sectors. But Trump has yet to signal the future of the LMI. This unresponsiveness creates anxiety among strategic partners who are worried about the implications of U.S. retraction in the region.”
 Brian Eyler, Director of the Southeast Asia Program, Stimson Center

“The first 100 days of the Trump administration have been characterized by near breathless consternation across government, industry, allies, and from many quarters of the national electorate. Moderates on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern over the president’s approaches to health care, immigration, trade, the environment, and relations with U.S. allies. But in the grand scheme of history, the 100 day yardstick is an imperfect metric for future success. Although disruption for the sake of disruption is imprudent, this president like all presidents is learning on the job, and it is too soon to write off the ability of this administration to make positive change in our world.”
 Brian Finlay, President and CEO, Stimson Center

“It’s been an adventure. The bad part — and the good part — is that few take the president’s words at face value.”
 Michael Krepon, Co-founder, Stimson Center

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“The takeaway on trade is that there’s still no such thing as a coherent Trump agenda. That’s not unusual this early in an administration. What’s unique is how high the stakes are as particulars of the strategy, as well as personnel roles and responsibilities, get fleshed out. “Economic nationalism” — as ill-defined as it may be — still has a lot of currency with President Trump himself and some of his key advisors. It still poses a major threat to the interests of the U.S. and international partners, not to mention key domestic constituencies for whom it’s falsely held up as a solution.”
 Nate Olson, Director of the Trade in the 21st Century Initiative, Stimson Center  

“While candidate Trump seemingly put U.S.-Asian alliances on the auction block of ‘fair trade’ and greater defense contributions (even at the risk of regional nuclear proliferation), President Trump made a number of abrupt reversals early in his tenure. Focusing on North Korea, beyond signaling American willingness to use force if necessary, he consolidated commitments to Japan and South Korea, mended fences with Australia and, most surprisingly, following his summit with Xi Jinping, adopted a positive new tone toward China. Whether the latter will pay off in more effective efforts to achieve Korean denuclearization and overall Sino-American cooperation remains to be seen. Meanwhile, though Taiwan is hardly forgotten, bold new steps to upgrade Washington-Taipei relations appear at least temporarily to be off the table.”
– Alan D. Romberg, Director of the East Asia Program, Stimson Center


“The first 100 days of the Trump administration have provided some insights into Trump’s approach to issues surrounding the conventional arms trade. For example, the administration’s actions surrounding use of force in counterterrorism operations indicate a desire to undo some of the limitations on armed drones put in place by the Obama administration. On arms sales, the administration has ignored policy constraints that limit arms transfers to governments with dismal human rights records, and has proposed changes to the operation of the foreign military financing program. The advancement of these sales and the rolling back of Obama administration policies indicates the prioritization of short-term strategic objectives over long-term national security and foreign policy interests.”
– Rachel Stohl, Director of the Conventional Defense Program, Stimson Center

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“The Trump administration’s first 100 days have been marred with questions about the survival of many crucial programs designed to enhance our economic and national security. The proposed 94.5 percent budget cut to the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), as well as the administration’s plans to slash USAID and other foreign assistance, coupled with a 17 percent cut in NOAA funding, seriously undermines the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing is an illicit industry which racks in an estimated $34.6 billion annually and supports transnational organized crime and syndicates around the world who are also engaged in the trafficking of humans, guns and drugs. If leveling the playing field for law abiding U.S. fishermen and women is a Trump administration goal, then cutting the very programs at USAID, State, and NOAA designed to combat illegal fishing is a mistake.”
– Sally Yozell, Director of the Environmental Security Program, Stimson Center

Read more Stimson Center analysis examining the major global challenges and opportunities the Trump administration faced during its first 100 days in office.

Contact: Jim Baird; [email protected]; (202) 478.3413

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