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Nov 10, 2009

Obama:risk of strains in US, China ties

WASHINGTON, Nov 9 (Reuters) – The United States sees China as a vital partner and competitor, but the two countries need to address economic imbalances or risk "enormous strains" on their relationship, President Barack Obama said on Monday.

Three days before leaving for a nine-day trip to Asia, Obama said the world’s two most powerful nations need to work together on the big issues, and any competition between them has to be fair and friendly.

"On critical issues, whether climate change, economic recovery, nuclear nonproliferation, it is very hard to see how we succeed or China succeeds in our respective goals, without working together," he told Reuters.

Speaking in the Oval Office, he warned the economic relationship between the two nations had become "deeply imbalanced" in recent decades, with a yawning trade gap and huge Chinese holdings of U.S. government debt.

Obama said he would be raising with Chinese leaders the sensitive issue of their yuan currency — which is seen by U.S. industry as significantly undervalued — as one factor contributing to the imbalances.

"As we emerge from an emergency situation, a crisis situation, I believe China will be increasingly interested in finding a model that is sustainable over the long term," he said. "They have a huge amount of U.S. dollars that they are holding, so our success is important to them."

"The flipside of that is that if we don’t solve some of these problems, then I think both economically and politically it will put enormous strains on the relationship."

Excessive consumption and borrowing in the United States and aggressive export policies, high savings and lending from Asia fueled a global economic bubble which burst last year.

The United States is trying to persuade China to consume more at home, and buy more U.S. goods in the process, while Washington pledges to save more and borrow less.

Obama said addressing climate change would also be a key part of the talks with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, and added the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide needed to find common ground if global talks on climate change in Copenhagen are to succeed.

"The key now is for the United States and China, the two largest emitters in the world, is to be able to come up with a framework that along with other big emitters like the Europeans and those countries that are projected to be large emitters in the future, like India, can all buy into," he said.

"I remain optimistic that between now and Copenhagen that we can arrive at that framework," he said, adding he would travel to Copenhagen next month if he felt there was a chance of a framework agreement.

"If I am confident that all of the countries involved are bargaining in good faith and we are on the brink of a meaningful agreement and my presence in Copenhagen will make a difference in tipping us over edge then certainly that’s something that I will do." Obama said.

Obama, who took office 10 months ago, will be visiting China for the first time. But the trip will mark his third bilateral meeting with China’s President Hu.

The Obama administration has sought to build on a policy begun in the Bush administration of encouraging Beijing to take on a higher-profile role in global affairs.

But that comes with the caveat that the United States expects China to use its clout responsibly on issues from the global economy to the Iranian and North Korean nuclear disputes.

One of the clearest signals of the administration’s desire to give China and other large, fast-growing economies a bigger role was the decision — adopted at the Pittsburgh Group of 20 summit in September — to make the G20 the premier forum for discussing global economic issues.

Obama’s Asia trip will take him to Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. His interview with Reuters lasted 21 minutes.

(Editing by Frances Kerry)















Nov 2, 2009
via Tales from the Trail

Victory for Karzai, minefield for Obama?

Photo

Former President George W. Bush used to talk about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” He was talking about education in the United States.But these days, that phrase could easily refer to the U.S. government’s attitudes towards Afghanistan. Just look at the following phrases from American officials this year.”We never promised Afghans a perfect democracy,” “Afghans have lower expectations in terms of security,” “we have to recognise Afghanistan will always remain a poor, conservative land with a low-level insurgency,” “our goal in Afghanistan is simply to prevent al Qaeda using its territory to attack us.” All perfectly reasonable in many ways, but hardly a compelling manifesto to win Afghan hearts and minds.The concern is that there has been such a concerted effort to lower the bar in Afghanistan this year, and to downplay what is achievable, that failure sometimes seems almost inevitable.The United States convinced Hamid Karzai to agree to a run-off election, but failed to convince him to clean up the Election Commission that had perpetrated the fraudulent first round. That made more controversy almost inevitable.White House spokesman Robert Gibbs just declared Karzai the “legitimate leader of Afghanistan” and that the world could take heart that the laws of Afghanistan had prevailed.Abdullah Abdullah and many Afghans would surely take issue with that bold statement. The laws of Afghanistan do not allow for elections to be rigged and for perpetrators to go unpunished.Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argues that the Afghan decision is the “defining test” of Obama’s leadership.”President Obama will have to take personal responsibility for the outcome of the war in Afghanistan, betting his historical reputation and second term on the outcome,” Cordesman said.The United States, some experts argue, needs to show a clear and unwavering commitment to winning the war in Afghanistan — and demand a clear and unwavering commitment from the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the same goal.Half-measures will never work. Weakness or a lack of commitment will embolden the worst elements of Karzai’s government, encourage the Pakistanis to keep playing both sides, and be exploited ruthlessly by the Taliban.It isn’t just a question of how many troops are sent, but whether there is a coherent strategy that will leave Afghanistan standing on its own two feet.If the war, as Obama once said, is one of “necessity,” then it is surely time for what Cordesman calls “real leadership.”Much as the president likes to find a middle road, there simply does not seem to be one any more in the Hindu Kush.What do you think is the best route for Obama to take through this potential minefield?Photo credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl (Afghan man dances in celebration of Karzai’s victory),  Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Protest group Code Pink near White House on Halloween)

Oct 13, 2009

Kerry wary of sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, who will travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan this week, said on Tuesday he was “very wary” of sending more American troops to the region.

Minutes after getting off the phone to President Barack Obama about the issue, Kerry said neither of the two extremes — a nationwide counterinsurgency and nation-building effort in Afghanistan nor “walking away from the place” — were do-able.

Oct 8, 2009

Pakistan wants U.S. “‘trust”, drones, market access

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As President Barack Obama discusses the U.S. strategy toward Pakistan with his top advisers Wednesday, Pakistan’s foreign minister appealed for market access, military technology — and above all, trust.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi dismissed concerns that expanded U.S. aid to Pakistan had too many strings attached, but said the country’s wobbling economy needed more, in particular access for its goods to Western markets.

Oct 7, 2009

INTERVIEW: Pakistan wants U.S. “trust”, drones, market access

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As President Barack Obama discusses the U.S. strategy toward Pakistan with his top advisers on Wednesday, Pakistan’s foreign minister appealed for market access, military technology — and above all, trust.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi dismissed concerns that expanded U.S. aid to Pakistan had too many strings attached, but said the country’s wobbling economy needed more, in particular access for its goods to Western markets.

    • About Simon

      "Simon is Washington Bureau Chief for Reuters and author of the Reuters Washington Extra newsletter and blog, a daily look at political and economic news from the capital. He has 18 years experience covering politics, economics and financial markets for Reuters for text and television all over the world, including in the United States, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. Before arriving in Washington, he spent seven years as Reuters bureau chief in Pakistan, Afghanistan and then India, and is the editor of Foreign Correspondent: Fifty Years of Reporting South Asia, which was published by Penguin India in 2008 and ..."
      Hometown:
      Portsmouth
      Joined Reuters:
      1992
      Languages:
      French, Spanish
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      Publications:
      Foreign Correspondent: Fifty Years of Reporting South Asia
      Penguin, 2008
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