We need to learn to acquire knowledge or skills or modification of a behavioral tendency. We have to continuously learn to be successful.
Yes, we did go to the White House as a rising star, a country that is successful and growing and determined to succeed. We wanted to help “strengthen the US economy” and placed importance on three fundamental security issues. We made a commitment that the enemy of the US are also the enemy of Malaysia.
There were glowing tributes on the visit by our prime minister (PM) to the White House right from the first-class welcome to Trump send off at the door. It was supposed to be for the first time, a PM from a small country has been personally invited to the White House. It sort of clearly showed our PM’s leadership style is approved and respected by bigger nations.
PM General Prayut Chan-o-cha from Thailand also visited the White House a few days ago – a rare instance of a military ruler being feted in Washington. Human rights groups have opposed the visit. But it did not deter President Trump to welcome General Prayut and his wife, Naraporn Chan-ocha for talks and a working lunch.
Discussions include strengthening cooperation, including in defense and security and “to help ensure that our citizens are safeguarded from terrorism and other threats.” The two nations would work closely on regional issues of concern. UN sanctions on North Korea and “the situation in Rakhine State” were also discussed.
On bilateral trade, President Trump said, “I think we’re going to try and sell a little bit more to you now, make that a little bit better if that’s possible”. The US is running a $19 billion deficit with Thailand. As a symbolic gesture, General Prayut invited Ivanka Trump (the president’s daughter and entrepreneur) to Thailand.
Much earlier, there was also a meeting in Washington between President Trump and the Vietnamese PM, Nguyen Xuan Phuc. Regional security and the issues of the contested claims in the South China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear program were discussed.
The trade imbalance between the two countries was $32 billion in 2016. However, both leaders trumpeted the signing of about $8 billion in commercial deals – for the purchase of American machinery for electricity production and aircraft engines.
PM Phuc welcomed good relations between the two powers, but hoped these would serve the interest of other nations in the region too. He urged Washington and Beijing “to act with full transparency and in a responsible manner so as not to impact negatively the region and relations among other nations.”
Some lessons we can learn from the above are:
- It is not the first time a PM from a small country has been personally invited to the White House.
- Issues discussed were generally similar with all three countries.
- It seems the US not only approved and respected our PM’s leadership style but also approved and respected that of Thailand and Vietnam.
- Thailand has a big trade imbalance with US but did not offer to buy more. It is the latter that said “I think we’re going to try and sell a little bit more to you now, make that a little bit better if that’s possible”. I think the negotiation power is tipping towards the former. The icing on the cake is the invite for Trump’s daughter to invest in Thailand.
- Vietnam’s trade imbalance with the US is bigger than our’s but we have really ‘bend backwards’ to appease the latter by helping “ to strengthen its economy”.
- We do not really need to commit that the enemy of the US are also the enemy of Malaysia.
- PM Phuc exhibited true statesmanship when he welcomed good relations between the two powers but hoped these would serve the interest of other nations in the region too.
We may have succeeded in showing that we are a rising star, a country that is successful and growing and determined to succeed but Thailand and Vietnam taught us self-confidence and bargaining skills.
Sadly, we need to explain our trade surplus to US but our neighbours showed us confidence in oneself and in one’s powers and abilities.
There may be a cancellation of a joint public appearance in the Oval Office or the absence of a working lunch at the White House but we must move on with confidence without the need to kowtow to any super power.
A “positive and friendly meeting” is good and nice, but not enough for us to be really successful.
What say you…