U.S. VP’S at­ten­dance falls flat of ex­pec­ta­tions at APEC meet­ing

Beijing Review - - COVER STORY - By Jon Tay­lor

WThe au­thor is a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at the Uni­ver­sity of St. Thomas in Hous­ton ith U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ab­sent, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence sub­sti­tuted for him at the Asia-pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) Eco­nomic Lead­ers’ Meet­ing in Port Moresby, Pa­pua New Guinea, and the East Asia Sum­mit hosted by the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) in Sin­ga­pore. Trump’s de­ci­sion raised le­git­i­mate ques­tions about U.S. com­mit­ments and re­li­a­bil­ity in the re­gion. Why did Trump choose to skip the meet­ings? And what did this say about his at­ti­tude and pol­icy to­ward both the meet­ings and the re­gion in gen­eral?

Sim­ply stated, Trump made a big mis­take skip­ping the meet­ings, giv­ing the im­pres­sion that the United States cares less about the Pa­cific Rim re­gion, and, in par­tic­u­lar, na­tions such as Pa­pua New Guinea, Mi­crone­sia, and the Cook Is­lands than China, Ja­pan and Aus­tralia.

De­part­ing U.S.

Com­bine this snub with the U.S. with­drawal from the Trans-pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade agree­ment and its on­go­ing trade war with China, and it be­comes even more ap­par­ent that Asi­aPa­cific is far from the vi­tal re­gion the United States and Trump claim it to be. Trump’s at­ten­dance would have un­der­scored U.S. com­mit­ment to the re­gion. It could have also pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for Trump and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping to meet be­fore the G20 Sum­mit in Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina.

In­stead, Trump’s un­will­ing­ness to at­tend meet­ings, shape the agenda, shore up U.S. al­liances and deepen U.S. ties in the re­gion pre- vailed. Trump is well known for his re­luc­tance to at­tend mul­ti­lat­eral meet­ings and in­stead prefers bi­lat­eral gath­er­ings such as his meet­ing with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He does not be­lieve in mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, while APEC’S goal is to pro­mote mu­tual trade and co­op­er­a­tion.

Trump, who at­tended the gath­er­ings last year but de­parted early, sent Pence in­stead. This did lit­tle to de­ter skep­ti­cism that Trump’s “Amer­ica First” pol­icy is of greater im­por­tance to him and his ad­min­is­tra­tion than en­gag­ing in the spirit of APEC’S work and en­hanc­ing co­op­er­a­tion and trade to en­gen­der in­clu­sive growth. It is un­likely to oc­cur to Trump that APEC mem­ber economies ac­count for al­most half of the world’s trade.

Per­sonal in­ter­ac­tions and the sym­bolic com­mit­ment of at­tend­ing such events are im­por­tant to both the lead­ers and pop­u­la­tions of the Asia-pa­cific re­gion. If the United States was re­ally con­cerned about main­tain- ing its rel­e­vance on a global stage, Trump should have been in at­ten­dance, en­gag­ing with his coun­ter­parts and il­lus­trat­ing the U.S. com­mit­ment to the re­gion in a speech to the del­e­ga­tion. By con­trast, Xi not only at­tended the APEC Eco­nomic Lead­ers’ Meet­ing, but he also de­liv­ered a key speech at the APEC CEO Sum­mit and held meet­ings with sev­eral Asian and Pa­cific lead­ers, in­clud­ing eight Pa­cific Is­land states. His ap­pear­ance un­doubt­edly over­shad­owed Pence’s pres­ence. Pence point­edly skipped Xi’s APEC speech and re­stated Trump’s hard­line stance that the United States would keep tar­iffs on China un­til it ad­dresses con­cerns out­lined by his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

This year, the APEC Eco­nomic Lead­ers’ Meet­ing ended with­out a com­mu­niqué for the first time in his­tory. The pri­mary area of con­tention was the in­sis­tence by one coun­try— likely the United States—that the out­come doc­u­ment should re­flect its own stance on the

Me­dia work­ers in­stall satel­lite ground sta­tions be­fore the 26th Asia-pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) Eco­nomic Lead­ers’ Meet­ing in Port Moresby, Pa­pua New Guinea, on Novem­ber 13

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.