Reuters blog archive
from Ian Bremmer:
Ever since the government shutdown began, various federal departments have been forced to furlough nonessential personnel. The specter of the United States’ first default in history has become a bargaining chip for American politicians. That has rankled the international community, and it only compounds the backlash we’ve seen recently in response to Obama’s flip-flopping on a Syria strike and the NSA surveillance revelations. It’s clear that international consternation is not enough of an incentive for the United States to change its behavior. As I wrote recently in this column, foreign policy simply isn’t a priority for the Obama administration.
Buffeted by the shutdown crisis and leery of the coming debt ceiling fight, Barack Obama canceled his trip to Asia last week, where he would have attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. Obama sent John Kerry in his stead to shake hands, dress in funny outfits, and engage in all the other usual hallmarks of a foreign convention of leaders. Obama was right to think that had he attended himself, the optics wouldn’t have worked in his favor. He would have looked distant and overly-casual to the crises at home if he were in Bali glad-handing with foreign leaders. But the point is not whether Obama made the right decision to cancel -- he did -- but whether he made the best decision possible. He could have done more, which we’ll get to in a bit. But instead of thinking creatively, the administration checked down to the obvious decision and simply sent Kerry.
What’s at stake at the APEC conference? The validity of America’s “pivot to Asia,” a hallmark of the administration’s first term, and a strategy that was beginning to succeed in the region. As the New York Times wrote earlier this week, without the U.S. at the APEC conference, it’s China’s stage. And that’s a problem when the United States is in the middle of trying to negotiate and complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is the most important trade agreement on the world agenda right now; should all the countries in discussions join, its members would constitute almost 40 percent of world GDP -- a coalition of more than a dozen of the most important Pacific powers. The deal would liberalize trade, foster more market access for U.S. firms in the region, and serve a deeper geopolitical purpose: it would give the U.S. a larger stake in regional stability. In other words, the agreement would put American skin in the game and confirm the Asia pivot, as likeminded countries try to hedge against the rise of a Chinese-led system that is not in accordance with their norms and standards.
The TPP is an agreement that pointedly excludes China (at least at first; it incentivizes China to make economic changes over the longer-term that align it with free market thinking in order to gain entry). But it’s tough to negotiate a U.S.-led trade deal when America’s president RSVP’s “No” and China’s leader Xi Jinping is running the show. I’ve spoken to senior officials in Indonesia who expressed personal disappointment with Obama’s no-show as well as their concerns about TPP closure. Other regional players are echoing these sentiments.
A guide at the "Japanese Experience" exhibition talks to Miim, the Karaoke pal robot, on the sidelines of the APEC meetings in Yokohama, Japan on Nov. 10. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
Miim is one of the more popular delegates at the APEC meetings in Yokohama Japan. She sings. She dances. She tosses her shoulder length hair. She may not be able to spout an alphabet soup of APEC acronyms like the other Asia-Pacific delegates. But she's still pretty lively. For a robot.
One of the most closely guarded secrets at the APEC summit in Japan's port city of Yokohama this weekend is not what the Asia-Pacific leaders might say about currencies and global imbalances. No, that's all going to be thrashed out at the G20 meeting Thursday and Friday in Seoul. The big topic of speculation here at the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center is what the leaders will wear when they gather for the annual class photo that concludes the meetings.
U.S. President George W. Bush (L) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin wear Chilean ponchos at APEC meeting in Santiago in 2004. REUTERS
from Tales from the Trail:
The APEC summit gives world leaders a chance to play a little dress-up and trade-in their typical business suits for the traditional wear of the host country.
This year it's in Singapore and we've got a description, but no photos yet, of what the leaders will wear for the group shot on Nov. 14.
from Financial Regulatory Forum:
By Anna Willard
BRUSSELS, Sept 2 (Reuters) - European finance ministers pledged on Wednesday to clamp down on banker bonuses, raising the prospect of spreading such payouts over years or demanding back money if business turns sour.
Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled rules for his country's bankers and said he would propose caps and taxes on bonuses at a meeting of the Group of 20 industrialised and emerging nations in Pittsburgh starting on Sept 24.
from Financial Regulatory Forum:
SINGAPORE, July 21 (Reuters) - Asia-Pacific nations agreed on Tuesday to shun protectionist measures after some criticised the United States and other developed world "buy local" campaigns at a meeting pushing forward momentum towards a global trade pact.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries committed to a Doha deal by 2010, saying an agreement aimed at helping poor countries prosper through trade was the best way to fight off the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
from Tales from the Trail:
George W. Bush heads to Peru this morning for his last scheduled trip abroad as U.S. president. Accompanied by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he will attend an Asia-Pacific summit in Lima, Peru, where he will seek support for global financial reforms.
The 21-nation APEC grouping accounts for nearly half the world's trade. U.S. officials have rejected characterization of the visit as a swan song for a lame-duck president with record low approval ratings.