Obama faces tough ques­tions about Trump on last for­eign trip

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

LIMA: Barack Obama faced tough ques­tions yes­ter­day about Don­ald Trump’s vic­tory on the last for­eign visit of his pres­i­dency, to a sum­mit of Pa­cific lead­ers that has been up­ended by the US elec­tion and con­cerns about China’s rise.

The US pres­i­dent and other top world lead­ers, in­clud­ing China’s Xi Jin­ping and Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin, are in Lima, Peru for an Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) sum­mit whose staid agenda has been hi­jacked by the Repub­li­can bil­lion­aire’s shock elec­tion win last week.

On Satur­day, Obama will meet lead­ers of the 12 coun­tries ne­go­ti­at­ing the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, or TPP, a vast US-led trade ac­cord that Trump op­poses and now faces an un­cer­tain fu­ture. Al­though the White House ad­mits the chances of pass­ing the deal are slim, Obama will urge lead­ers to give the new pres­i­dent time to for­mu­late his pol­icy.

From Obama down, of­fi­cials have stressed that the elec­tion has not changed US eco­nomic and strate­gic in­ter­ests, and that Trump may yet re­cal­i­brate his views. But there is lit­tle chance Trump’s Repub­li­can al­lies in Congress would rat­ify TPP any­time soon. “That is a real blow to US in­ter­ests, eco­nom­i­cally and strate­gi­cally, in terms of our po­si­tion in Asia, but I think that is the re­al­ity, that the US is not go­ing to be par­tic­i­pat­ing,” said Matthew Good­man, an ex­pert on Asian eco­nom­ics with the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

“But there are 11 other coun­tries in TPP and I think that it is pos­si­ble that they will agree to go ahead and pass TPP,” he added in an in­ter­view, say­ing the oth­ers could “tweak” the agree­ment to keep it alive with­out US par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Turn­ing to China

Some al­lies are turn­ing their at­ten­tion to a ri­val Chi­nese-backed free-trade agree­ment. Ja­panese leader Shinzo Abe, who took do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal risks to back TPP, vis­ited Trump in New York on Thurs­day to hear from the pres­i­dent-elect him­self. The real es­tate mogul has prompted con­cern in Ja­pan and South Korea in par­tic­u­lar by ques­tion­ing decades-old mu­tual de­fense obli­ga­tions that un­der­pin their se­cu­rity.

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Su­san Rice said ahead of Obama’s visit that al­lies should ex­pect those obli­ga­tions to hold. “It is man­i­festly in the United States’ in­ter­ests for these al­liances to en­dure and to be a source of con­fi­dence to our part­ners and for them to un­der­stand that they don’t need to come out from un­der the US um­brella,” she told AFP.

Stress­ing that she did not want to spec­u­late about Trump’s for­eign pol­icy, she sought to re­as­sure key US al­lies in NATO and the Pa­cific Rim that they will not be aban­doned.

Many Pa­cific coun­tries are clam­or­ing for deeper trade ties with the rest of the world.

But in the United States and through­out the West, op­po­si­tion is grow­ing to deals that many say have contributed to jobs be­ing sent over­seas. Obama is likely to make the case that glob­al­iza­tion is a fact of life, and mod­ern trade deals-with sturdy en­vi­ron­men­tal and la­bor pro­vi­sions-help shape that trend in the right di­rec­tion.

Nu­clear Korea

Obama is also set to hold talks with the lead­ers of Rus­sia, Canada, Aus­tralia, Peru and, cru­cially, China’s Xi-the final meet­ing be­tween the lead­ers of the world’s two largest eco­nomic pow­ers. The sit-down will also deal with ef­forts to stop North Korea’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile and nu­clear pro­grams, US of­fi­cials say.

Obama is ex­pected to press for an in­crease in the pace and sever­ity of sanc­tions against North Korea, which is try­ing to de­velop a minia­tur­ized nu­clear war­head and a mis­sile ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing the weapon to the United States. Bei­jing has long dragged its heels over sanc­tion­ing its al­lies in Py­ongyang, fear­ing a flood of refugees if North Korea’s econ­omy col­lapses.

But ear­lier this year, China moved to sanc­tion a con­glom­er­ate based in its fron­tier city of Dan­dong that had an es­ti­mated $530 mil­lion in trade with North Korea be­tween 2011 and 2015. —AFP

LIMA: US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama waves while wait­ing for a meet­ing with Peru’s Pres­i­dent Pe­dro Pablo Kuczyn­ski (R) and oth­ers at the Lima Con­ven­tion Cen­ter Air­port yes­ter­day. —AFP

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