Xi Jinping shakes hands with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo: Reuters

Speaking to the State Department for the first time since his first day as Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson addressed the Trump administration’s “America First” foreign policy agenda.

Tillerson said that US priorities overseas have fallen out of balance over the past few decades, focusing too much on promoting economic activity and trade with emerging economies.

He added that US policy would place less emphasis on human rights concerns in certain interactions abroad. “If we condition too heavily that others must adopt this value that we’ve come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests,” Reuters quoted Tillerson as saying.

The effort to bring relationships “back into balance,” which has come along with proposed cuts in spending for foreign aid and the State Department has drawn criticism from some who say the US is ceding influence around the globe to others, including China. It also comes as China ramps up investment in what is perhaps the largest overseas investment push in history.

The shift on human rights-linked policy, however, could open doors to improving ties with nations that have turned to China in the face of criticisms from the US.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now.