Monday, November 21, 2011

APEC 2011 in Honolulu Ended. Was there a Result?

Yes, although we did not get much information about it in Hawaii. In general, coverage of APEC 2011 in the international press was limited and mostly focused on countries other than the US. There was little or no mention of Honolulu, Hawaii other than as a reference to the location of the meeting. The lack of leis and aloha shirts in official pictures made the exposure of Aloha even more minimal.

The APEC 2011 accomplishment “headline” was the formal initiation of a possible free trade agreement among Pacific nations, which is referred to as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This, in turn, put Japan squarely in the middle of the issue and pinned China in a defensive position.

President Obama made even bigger headlines ... in Australia where he announced that WE ARE BACK!

The Economist’s summaries of “We are Back” and of the TPP are informative. See below. We should be following these developments closely because along with expedited visas for tourists from China these have strong implications for Hawaii.

America in the Asia-Pacific - We’re back
America reaches a pivot point in Asia


BORN in Hawaii, raised for some of his childhood in Indonesia, Barack Obama has since his election wanted to be known as America’s first “Pacific President”. Until recently, he has not done much to earn the title. That, Mr. Obama declares, is now changing.

Allies in Asia have complained about only intermittent American attention to their region. But in a speech to Australia’s parliament on November 17th Mr Obama announced that America is back. “Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in.” It was, he said, a “deliberate and strategic decision”: America was “here to stay”.

Senior administration officials back up the president. They talk of a new “pivot” in foreign policy towards Asia. America will be around to ensure that China’s “peaceful rise” remains just that.

Free trade in the Pacific - A small reason to be cheerful
An inspiring idea to liberalize transpacific trade hinges on the courage of America and, especially, Japan

Nov 19th 2011 | from the print edition

WITH thunderclouds looming over the trans-Atlantic economy, it was easy to miss a bright piece of news last weekend from the other crucible of world trade, the Pacific Rim. In Honolulu, where Barack Obama hosted a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, Canada, Japan and Mexico expressed interest in joining nine countries (America, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam) in discussing a free-trade pact. Altogether, the possible members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) produce 40% of world GDP—far more than the European Union.

The creation of a wider TPP is still some way off. For it to come into being its architects—Mr Obama, who faces a tough election battle next year, and Japan’s Yoshihiko Noda, who faces crony politics laced with passionate protectionism—need to show more leadership.

Opening up the Pacific
Nov 12th 2011 | TOKYO

MOST Americans have not heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free-trade area of countries dotted around the Pacific Ocean. They will soon. The news has electrified the summit of Asia-Pacific Exporting Countries (APEC) convening in Honolulu this weekend. President Barack Obama, who acts as the meeting’s host, hopes the TPP will be the cornerstone of an APEC-wide free-trade area.

There are, however, huge hurdles to overcome in the meantime. Mr Noda’s decision was delayed by a day because of the extent of opposition to trade liberalization within his own Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), let alone the opposition.

Asia-Pacific trade initiatives - Dreams and realities
A battle over American-led free trade brews in Asia
Nov 12th 2011 | SEOUL AND TOKYO

THE American president is bringing a new—or at least re-warmed—cause to the Asia-Pacific region: free trade. Barack Obama recently signed a ground-breaking free-trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea, after years of Washington foot-dragging. He signed FTAs with Colombia and Panama on the same day. On November 12th-13th the president hosts an Asia-Pacific trade jamboree in Honolulu which, he seems to hope, will give momentum to the idea of a remarkably ambitious free-trade zone at just the time when global trade talks are going nowhere.

Mr Noda will need to convince his counterparts that he has enough domestic support to negotiate in good faith. If he can achieve that, Japan might start a long-overdue push to reform and revitalize its economy. And then the TPP might become more than just another Asia-Pacific acronym that only wonks have heard of.

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