WASHINGTON (CBS4) – After President Donald Trump returned from the first overseas trip of his presidency, he invited a handful of Congressional Republicans including Sen. Cory Gardner to a meeting to discuss foreign policy.
Gardner, Colorado’s junior senator, had just returned from his own overseas trip. He visited east Asia.
Gardner chairs the Senate’s East Asia Subcommittee. He says that region of the world will represent more than half of the world’s population and global gross domestic product in the next decade.
“That means we’ll have the largest standing armies around the globe in Asia. We’ll have five of our seven mutual defense treaties in Asia. Two thirds of world trade will travel through Asia,” Gardner said. “So Colorado’s security and economic opportunity really does go through Asia.”
Gardner said he shared that message with the president during this week’s meeting, which took place during a dinner on Tuesday night.
Gardner said they discussed legislation he’s carrying dealing with economic opportunities and security threats in the region.
“A lot of attention gets paid on a daily basis — and rightfully so — to the Middle East, whether it’s Syria, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s Iran. But the difference between Iran and North Korea? North Korea today has a nuclear weapon.”
Gardner also raised concerns about Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, who he met with in Manilla. Duterte’s brutal crackdown on drugs has been praised by Trump and condemned by human rights activists.
“The Philippines is a defense treaty of the United States, meaning that if the Philippines is attacked, the United States — by treaty — must come to its defense,” he said. “And I’m concerned about the direction the Philippines is taking. I’m concerned about human rights in the Philippines and I’m concerned about extrajudicial killings.”
“Those are issues that I brought up not only with the president of the Philippines but I brought up with the leader of the human rights coalition in the Philippines.”
Gardner said countries in east Asia need “somebody other than China to turn to” and that the United States needs to be a strong leader in the region.
“We can’t lead from behind,” Gardner said.
Gardner said he also talked to Trump about trade opportunities in Asia. He said he met with the leaders of South Korea and Taiwan and said they specifically discussed expanding exports of natural gas from Colorado.