What more to dis­cuss? For Obama and world lead­ers it’s Trump

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Josh Le­d­er­man

Try­ing to tie up loose ends of his for­eign pol­icy agenda, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Satur­day in­stead found world lead­ers more fo­cused on some­one else: Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

Global hand-wring­ing over Amer­ica’s next pres­i­dent has taken much of the wind out of Obama’s fi­nal overseas trip. Adopt­ing an al­tru­is­tic tone, Obama has of­fered fre­quent re­as­sur­ances that the U.S. won’t re­nege on its com­mit­ments. Yet he’s been at a loss to quell con­cerns fully, given new sig­nals from Trump that he in­tends to gov­ern much the way he cam­paigned.

Obama’s visit to Peru, the last stop on his trip, has brought those con­cerns to the fore­front: Much of Latin Amer­ica is on edge about a po­ten­tially dra­matic shift in U.S. im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy un­der Trump. And Asian lead­ers gath­ered in Lima for an Asia-Pa­cific eco­nomic sum­mit are try­ing to game out what Trump’s pres­i­dency will mean for trade with the world’s largest econ­omy.

“We’re go­ing to have a busy agenda,” Obama said as he sat down with lead­ers of coun­tries in the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, the sweep­ing free trade deal with Asia that Obama painstak­ingly bro­kered.

It was un­clear whether their agenda was re­ally as busy as all that. Ve­he­mently op­posed to the Pa­cific agree­ment and sim­i­lar deals, Trump has vowed it won’t be rat­i­fied on his watch. In an ac­knowl­edge­ment of that po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity, the White House has stopped ac­tively lob­by­ing Congress to try to pass it.

In fact, Obama didn’t men­tion the trade deal at all as re­porters were al­lowed in briefly for the be­gin­ning of his meet­ing with TPP na­tions, which in­clude Mex­ico, Chile, Ja­pan, Aus­tralia and Viet­nam. In­stead, Obama called it a use­ful oc­ca­sion to talk about cre­at­ing jobs, op­por­tu­nity and pros­per­ity.

To be sure, any pres­i­dent would have less to dis­cuss with other lead­ers in the fi­nal months than when years of gov­ern­ing stretch ahead. Obama’s typ­i­cally jam­packed sched­ule on for­eign trips has been no­tably lighter on this trip, with long stretches of down­time. Yet Trump’s elec­tion, with the sharp shift in ap­proach it’s ex­pected to bring, has put a spot­light on Obama’s lame-duck sta­tus.

Obama has made it a tra­di­tion to at­tend the an­nual Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion sum­mit. His at­ten­dance this year was de­signed to re­in­force the im­por­tance of that venue, even though it’s un­likely at this stage of his pres­i­dency he will se­cure any new ma­jor agree­ments with other coun­tries or shift di­rec­tion in any ma­jor ways.

His visit also of­fered a chance for a round of farewell meet­ings, in­clud­ing with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping of China, a some­times U.S. ri­val. Xi com­mended Obama for “ac­tive ef­forts” to grow U.S.-China ties. Obama, with just a hint of nos­tal­gia, noted it was their last meet­ing, and called the two coun­tries’ re­la­tion­ship the most con­se­quen­tial in the world.

Be­fore re­turn­ing to Wash­ing­ton, Obama will sit down Sun­day with Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull. He also will par­tic­i­pate in a pull-aside with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau of Canada.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, Obama’s chief an­tag­o­nist on the world stage, was also in Lima, but the White House did not ex­pect them to have any sub­stan­tive in­ter­ac­tion.

By this point, Obama has come to terms with the fact that his re­main­ing weeks in of­fice will be over­shad­owed by the provoca­tive busi­ness­man who soon moves into the home Obama’s fam­ily now oc­cu­pies. In Greece and Ger­many, the first two stops on his trip, Obama was sim­i­larly trailed by ques­tions about Trump and whether he’ll re­ally fol­low through with threats he lev­eled dur­ing the cam­paign, such as po­ten­tially re­fus­ing to de­fend NATO al­lies who don’t pay enough of the al­liance’s costs.

Obama’s mes­sage to young lead­ers at a town hall-style meet­ing in Lima was san­guine: “Don’t as­sume the worst.”

“I think it will be im­por­tant for ev­ery­body around the world to not make im­me­di­ate judg­ments, but give this new pres­i­dent-elect a chance to put their team to­gether, to ex­am­ine the is­sues, to de­ter­mine what their poli­cies will be,” Obama said. “How you cam­paign is not al­ways how you gov­ern.”

So far, while Trump has vowed to run a uni­fy­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion, he’s given few in­di­ca­tions he plans to aban­don his cam­paign prom­ises.

Those hop­ing for a more mod­er­ate Trump 2.0 have been dis­ap­pointed by his first se­lec­tions for top jobs: Rep. Mike Pom­peo, a fierce critic of Obama’s Iran deal, for CIA di­rec­tor; re­tired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, an ad­vo­cate for closer ties to Rus­sia and a more mil­i­tant re­sponse to Mideast ex­trem­ism, for na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser; and Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, an im­mi­gra­tion hard­liner, for at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Trump’s pro­tec­tion­ist stance on trade was clearly on the minds of other lead­ers at­tend­ing the eco­nomic con­fer­ence.

Xi, speak­ing be­fore his meet­ing with Obama, made an im­pas­sioned call against pro­tec­tion­ism as Chi­nese state me­dia said Trump’s trade­bash­ing could drag the world into “deeper eco­nomic dis­tress.” Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto de­fended his coun­try’s trade re­la­tion­ship with the U.S., but took a cau­tious ap­proach to Trump’s pledge to rene­go­ti­ate the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

“In the face of Trump’s po­si­tion­ing, we’re now in a stage of fa­vor­ing di­a­logue as a way to build a new agenda in our bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship,” Pena Ni­eto said.

ESTE­BAN FELIX—THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama smiles dur­ing a speech at a town hall with Young Lead­ers of the Amer­i­cas Ini­tia­tive (YLAI) in Lima, Peru, Satur­day.

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