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Trump era could see stronger US-Asia ties: Milken Institute

President Donald Trump's "America First" policy will not hinder U.S. ties with Asia, according to a fellow at a nonpartisan think tank.

"I am confident that even as President Trump pivots to America, this pivot can include smarter and stronger U.S.-Asia ties," said Curtis Chin, Asia fellow at Milken Institute, in a Squawk Box interview.

"Grand multilateral trade deals" such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement are things of the past, Chin said, but the new administration will focus on developing stronger relations with individual Asian states, such as Japan and Vietnam.

Japan is among the closest U.S. military allies and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first Asian leader to meet with the new American president last month, and even played several rounds of golf at Trump's exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Both countries have said the trip signaled the importance that both leaders place on the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has been working towards closer defense links and joint military exercises with Vietnam, after fully lifting its lethal arms embargo on the emerging economy last May.

Vietnam was part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and has sought wider ties with the U.S. as a hedge against its powerful northern neighbor, China, which it is embroiled in territorial dispute with over areas in the South China Sea.

President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump arrive with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe on Air Force One at the Palm Beach International airport on February 10, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump arrive with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe on Air Force One at the Palm Beach International airport on February 10, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

"A president focused on business" and an "America that is confident about its ability to compete on a level-playing field around the world" are positives for U.S.-Asia ties in the long run, Chin said.

Chin who also was the U.S. ambassador to the Asian Development Bank under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, added that it is important to allow the new administration a chance to find its footing.

"Give this administration some time, many of its key personnel are not yet in place, but already we're seeing visits [to Asia]," Chin said, referring to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis' visit to Japan and South Korea.

"Asia will remain an important part of the United States' future," he said.

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