SINGAPORE – With his shocking victory in the US presidential election, Donald Trump has made history – and made a lot of people very afraid. In fact, his rise threatens to incite a revolution that shakes the foundations not only of American politics, but also of global peace and prosperity. One region that is likely to start feeling tremors soon is Southeast Asia.
Throughout his campaign, Trump espoused an “America first” worldview, emphasizing that he would follow through on US international commitments only when it suits him. This has rattled many a US ally and partner, including the countries of Southeast Asia, which fear that they will be all but ignored by a key guarantor of stability in their neighborhood.
This would represent a notable reversal from the last eight years, during which President Barack Obama made a concerted effort to deepen America’s ties with Southeast Asia. Under Obama’s stewardship, the US acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, and joined the East Asia Summit.
Moreover, in 2013, the US became the first ASEAN dialogue partner to establish a permanent mission to the organization. Last year, the country forged a strategic partnership with ASEAN. And, earlier this year, Obama hosted the first US-ASEAN summit on American soil. Obama also brought four ASEAN members into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a mega-regional trade deal that would promote US economic exchange with the region.