Duterte, Trump to get along well but that doesn’t mean closer ties
MANILA — There is a good chance that President Duterte will get along with United States President Donald Trump on a personal level, but it does not necessarily mean that ties between the two countries
will get closer, according to sociologist and former lawmaker Walden Bello.
When it comes to their personalities, Bello believes both Mr. Duterte and Trump are authoritarians who are bound to understand each other, and “thus know where not to tread.”
It is in the same way that Trump gets along with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “boss” personality, he explains.
“I see him getting along well with Duterte. ‘Godfathers’ understand each other, and can be quite friendly in their encounters because they know which buttons to push and which buttons not to push,” he said in an email interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
But given Trump’s plans and policies especially for East Asia and Mr. Duterte’s own new foreign policy, the Philippines and the US might not necessarily grow closer, said Bello.
“Overall, I think the combination of Trump’s election and Duterte’s new diplomacy might accelerate the Philippines’ distancing from Washington amidst a broader reconfiguration of the US’ relations with East Asia,” he said.
He believes Trump would not try to stop Mr. Duterte’s “drift” toward China, but will try to be friendly with the Philippine President.
According to him, Trump is bound to abandon Obama’s pivot to the Asia-Pacific, as he seems more concerned about building a wall across the US-Mexican border than containing China’s military might.
When it comes to China and East Asian countries, Trump has been more concerned about trade, he said.
“He sees the East Asian countries as unfair traders, to be dealt with by raising US trade barriers, not by opening them up like the Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans want. That’s the reason he wants to junk the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” he said.
Mr. Duterte’s antagonism toward the US could go down if Trump “plays it right at the personal level,” but the relationship between the two countries would no longer be as warm as it was during the Aquino administration, Bello further said.
This is because Chinese President Xi Jinping will be there to remind Mr. Duterte of China’s diplomacy toward the Philippines, according to Bello. SFM
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