Crunch time for Obama’s big CA Asia summit

obama asia summitPresident Obama faced a soberminded summit with America’s Asian allies at the tail end of his latest trip to California, which will see him raise money for Democrats, make a guest appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show, and catch his breath in the Coachella Valley before buckling down with ASEAN members at the Sunnylands estate.

“Next week’s special Summit is an exciting occasion for me and other members of President Obama’s Asia policy team because it brings full circle the commitment he made at the start of his presidency to refocus and rebalance our foreign policy to deepen our engagement with the Asia-Pacific region,” wrote Daniel R. Russel at the Department of State’s official blog:

“The President made clear at the beginning that the region’s youthful populations, fast-paced economies, and growing consumer base were important to America’s own economic future. While these qualities are abundant in Southeast Asia, the region’s leaders have long recognized that an additional ingredient was needed for their success – a regional order based on rules.”

Closing ranks

The Obama administration had labored last year to codify such rules in the form of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But that landmark agreement, signed by the parties earlier this month, has run up against stubborn bipartisan resistance in Congress and nationwide. “Dozens of labor, environmental and consumer groups are urging Congress to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation trade deal that President Obama hopes will be a signature achievement of his administration,” the Washington Post noted. “Meanwhile, business groups and major trade associations are lining up in support of the pact.”

With China posing a growing strategic challenge — but weakening economically — many of the ASEAN countries have looked to the U.S. to take a leading role even without the TPP in place. In California, analysts have followed suit, banking on the possibility of more trade cash flowing the Golden State’s way. “California already conducts a significant amount of trade with the ASEAN countries,” as the Desert Sun reported. “The ASEAN trade block — which comprises 10 countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia — is California’s fourth largest trade partner after Mexico, Canada and China. But experts say the potential for growth in the region is enormous for California’s industries.”

Dark clouds

Nevertheless, president Obama has weathered criticism over both the summit’s invitees and its agenda. As the military regime in Myanmar negotiated a power transition with longtime dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, its candidate, outgoing president Thein Sein, abruptly canceled his plan to attend the summit, according to Channel NewsAsia. Obama has also taken heat from “activists, opposition party leaders and scholars” objecting to his “decision to include Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, head of the junta that seized power two years ago,” the Washington Times observed. Concern has arisen “that the former army general will display the invitation as Washington’s endorsement of the military regime.”

In an apparent effort to strike a balance in reassuring domestic and international audiences, the administration released a statement focused on national security advisor Ambassador Susan Rice. “Ambassador Rice highlighted that U.S. support for civil society, good governance, and human rights is a focus area for the U.S. Rebalance to Asia and is a topic President Obama will stress at Sunnylands,” said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price in a statement. “Ambassador Rice reiterated the United States’ steadfast commitment to sustaining and supporting civil society in Southeast Asia and around the world, including through the president’s Stand with Civil Society initiative.”

Adding to the administration’s burdens, meanwhile, North Korea has also cast a shadow over the event, with its recently launched satellite literally looming over California. As the AP reported, one tech analyst noted the device “passed almost directly overhead Silicon Valley” just after the Super Bowl came to an end. “I would put it down to nothing more than a coincidence, but an interesting one,” the analyst wrote. But the technology behind the satellite’s illegal launch “could deliver a nuclear warhead into downtown Los Angeles,” according to Richard Grenell former U.S. spokesman at the U.N., who suggested that “the Obama administration is once again caught without a plan.”


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  1. InYerFace
    InYerFace 13 February, 2016, 09:12

    This man is such a phony and so bad for the country. I can’t wait till he’s gone. He is the most anti-American president, or even American pol, in my recollection. Bar none. A horrid leader who seems so full of hate. There’s a “that will show them” aspect that affects Americans BADLY in everything he does or touches.

    Reply this comment
  2. Queeg
    Queeg 13 February, 2016, 09:23

    Yep…..more Buicks from China Comrades while your fellow workers stand in soup kitchen lines groveling for gruel….

    Wake up….hope and change did American blue collar workers in….

    Reply this comment
  3. David Wiltsee
    David Wiltsee 13 February, 2016, 10:50

    The purpose of this Summit at this point in time is elusive. Is the USA proposing to prop up Asian economies in the face of declining consumer product demand, AND, AT THE SAME TIME, grow jobs in the U.S.? Or is it just a half-hearted attempt to paint a happy face on eight years of American failure in international trade?

    Reply this comment
  4. Flowing Waters
    Flowing Waters 13 February, 2016, 11:55

    These agreements like the TPP AND TTIP are not trade agreements; they are giveaways to benefit none but the multinational corporate plunderers. Especially in California and the Southwest with our extreme drought, we must protect our water sources. Just one example are Nestle and Otsuka Pharmaceutical Holdings Japan/ Crystal Geyser Water Company extracting water in our national forests and at the headwaters of the Sacramento River for bottling water and beverages. With these so called partnerships all environmental constraints can be bypassed, local, regional, state and federal regulations, for which so many have fought for over 45 years. Look deeper than the quick glance and see beyond the veil.

    Reply this comment
  5. Nancy Price
    Nancy Price 13 February, 2016, 12:19

    Time to do everything to defeat the TPP. If we defeat the TPP, we can then defeat the equally bad deals – the TTIP and the TiSA – also negotiated in secret with all the corporations at the table.
    Join the grassroots movement to pass local town, city and county TPP-Free Zone Resolutions. How? Go to to read model resolution or resolutions of other cities that have passed resolutions. Put your town, city, county on the map. The Alliance for Democracy is working with other groups to get more than 100 resolutions passed. Time to act, educate, organize and mobilize to#STOPTPP. During this Congressional Recess Presidents’ Week take or join a delegation to talk with you Senators or Representative and ask for their “NO” vote on the TPP. Go to Town Hall meetings ask for a “NO” vote and say why you want the TPP defeated.

    Reply this comment
  6. Big Bad Bill Gore
    Big Bad Bill Gore 14 February, 2016, 06:39

    Yes: “a regional order based on rules”. Sounds SO reasonable and progressive, doesn’t it? A regional ORDER based on extra-national RULES. Right now there simply aren’t enough RULES between countries to ensure ORDER. With the USA as the benevolent global conductor of this orderly symphonic group.The TPP WILL GUT and render VOID EVERY bit of environmental and labor protection that progressives in California claim to cherish. Adios Coastal Commission. Adios CEQA. Hasta la vista NEPA. The New World ORDER is a very exclusive and BRUTAL club, and you’re NOT in it!

    Reply this comment
  7. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 14 February, 2016, 22:29

    Jobs shipped off to mexico and these lemming labor unions blindly still follow the jackass off the cliff

    Reply this comment

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