Barack Obama has promised leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore that the US will put its economic energy back into the region.
Washington’s preoccupations in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent times have allowed its influence in the Pacific Rim to slip. At the same time China’s careful cultivation of trade contracts has allowed it to emerge as a rival to US dominance in Asia. Before Obama’s arrival, his APEC counterparts took aim at what they see as American protectionist policies that hamper free trade. Among them was Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. He urged Asian leaders to do everything possible to refrain from protectionism in any form, and not just in terms of trade. The US president has called for the world’s economy to be rebalanced, which would mean getting Americans to save and export more and spend and borrow less. Hawaii-born Obama reminded his audience that he was “America’s first Pacific President.” The response was warm, but his administration will ultimately be judged on its actions rather than his words.