Special Forum

For Southeast Asia, the halcyon days of the Obama “pivot,” which saw the president initiate the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, accede to ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation on the way to joining the East Asia Summit, and visit almost all Southeast Asian countries (the only exception was Brunei, which he would have visited in October 2013 if not for the government shutdown in Washington), are over. Southeast Asia is now staring at the prospect of a significant shift in the tenor of relations with the United States.1 The reality of this shift was brought home in January 2017, when the United States inaugurated an unapologetic “America First” nationalist as its president. Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality TV star, has positioned himself as a staunch critic of the Obama administration. He has also made unequivocally clear his expressed desire to reverse a host of Obama era policies, including encouragement of international free trade, support for regional allies, and commitment to multilateralism.

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