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Donald Trump’s presidential victory signals an end to America’s engagement in Southeast Asia

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Trump’s unexpected victory could change how America interacts with Southeast Asia on issues concerning security, human rights and trade.

Republican Donald Trump’s unexpected victory to the White House has not only shocked the world but is also on course to reset the US’s engagement with some countries. As the world uneasily awaits the president-elect’s foreign policy, it is time to take a look at some of the potential implications of Trump’s presidency for Southeast Asia – a strategic focus of Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia policy.

What to expect from America’s engagement in Southeast Asia under the new administration

The US has traditionally provided security guarantees to the region, either through partnership or alliances. This was an important strategic focus for Obama’s Asian rebalancing policy, and under his administration, new military agreements were signed, such as the US-Philippines Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement. Vietnam also became a new security partner.

The US has acted as the champion for liberal values, pressing authoritarian regimes to respect human rights, rule of law, and sometimes pushing for political reforms in the region, through means of sanctions and aid as seen with Thailand and in Myanmar.

Beyond projecting security and spreading values in Southeast Asia, the US has strong economic ties with the region. The regional bloc ASEAN is the US’s fourth…

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