Last week in eight days, President Barack Obama traveled to three countries, China, Myanmar, and Australia, and attended three different summits with many world leaders. The purpose of these summits is to improve the economic and political ties, with a focus on Asian and Pacific relationships. Three years ago, the Obama administration announced that they would pivot to that region, because there is a gold mine for American companies to sell their products, and they are emerging politically and economically.
At the beginning of his trip, the president attended the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Beijing, China, where 21 world leaders worked to reduce the barriers to trade and investment. The countries are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Peru, Russia and Vietnam.
This summit was started in 1989 by 12 countries for the sole purpose of exploring new market opportunities, connecting people through trade and strengthening the economic global system. The membership has continued to grow, and the summit now accounts for approximately 40 percent of world trade, and there is a waiting line for other countries to join. This year, the members will explore the economic integration of natural gas and natural resources.
At this APEC summit, the U.S. and China have agreed on a major deal on climate change and pollution, but no one is sure that they will hit or work to reach their targets. In China, air pollution is toxic, thousands get sick and some even die as a result. Chinese President XI Jinping declared the period during the summit a holiday, and he closed down many companies to improve the pollution and air.
The second summit that Obama attended was the East-Asia Summit in Naypyidaw. At this summit, Obama emphasized that Asia’s security must not be based on intimidation, where big nations bully small ones. There is also a major problem in this region, where there is a need for political reforms, because there is a violation of human rights in many of the countries.
The final leg of the trip was the two-day G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia. The focus of this summit was to focus on economic growth and expand on the plans made in February 2014 to boost growth by 2 percent in five years. There were also discussions on climate change, the challenge posed by Ebola and the conflict in Ukraine.
The “Group of Twenty” represents two-thirds of the world’s population, 85 percent of global GDP and over 75 percent of global trade. G20 meetings are aimed at deepening economic co-operation and strengthening the global economy. At each meeting, the host country invites non-member guest countries to attend. For 2014, Austria has invited Spain, Mauritania, Myanmar, Senegal, New Zealand and Singapore.
It is too early to determine the different levels of success and engagement, which will evolve from this trip. As Obama has warned and praised world leaders, it is hard to assess what will change and what will improve. Obama’s much anticipated pivot to Asia never fully materialized, and now the president must work with a hostile Congress.
Obama can promise everything, but with this new Congress, no one knows what he can deliver. The Republicans now hold the purse strings with the budgets, and they have the ability to shut the government down. The new Congress has not been sworn in, but everyone is waiting with anticipation.