Obama’s Free-Trade Credentials Draw China, APEC Scrutiny (Updated)

Bloomberg reports on Obama’s reception in Asia so far:

Obama is using the trip to redefine the U.S. relationship with Asia from its biggest debtor and largest single buyer of consumer goods to a more balanced partnership that can help bring down a 10.2 percent jobless rate. To do so, he’ll have to convince China’s President Hu Jintao and other leaders that tariffs on Chinese tires and steel don’t portend the future.

“The challenge Obama is facing is that the influence of the U.S. is rapidly waning and that he has little credibility” on trade issues, said Marc Faber, who manages about $300 million in Asian shares at Hong Kong-based Marc Faber Ltd. “Obama talked about free trade, but recently the U.S. slapped tariffs on Chinese-made tire imports.”

Obama needs to show the same commitment to free trade as his predecessor, George W. Bush, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said during a Nov. 13 panel discussion in Singapore. Mexican President Felipe Calderon suggested the U.S. has become more protectionist and less engaged internationally since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Also from Reuters:

The United States and China sparred over exchange rates at a meeting of Asia Pacific leaders on Sunday, pointing to tricky talks ahead for President Barack Obama when he flies to China to address economic tensions.

The discord surfaced at a summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Singapore when a reference to “market-oriented exchange rates” was cut from a communique issued at the end of two days of talks. An APEC delegation official said Washington and Beijing could not agree on the wording.

And from the New York Times:

The president and his advisers, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, are expected to discuss a wide range of issues with China’s leaders, including North Korea, terrorism, the environment, human rights and the fragile state of the global economy.

The president is expected to praise Beijing for its efforts to stimulate its economy, aiding a global recovery that is now gathering steam. But he is also expected to press Beijing to allow its currency to appreciate and to speed up market reforms and give American companies greater access to its market, which could bolster American exports and help create jobs in the United States.

The three-day visit to China comes after the president traveled to Japan and Singapore, where on Sunday he attended an Asia-Pacific economic summit meeting. During those stops, President Obama pledged to forge closer ties with Japan, a longtime ally, and in a speech in Tokyo said that he did not fear China’s rise but welcomed it.

Update: Read more about the economic relationship between China and the United States in light of Obama’s visit:

- “China, U.S. stuck in mutual reliance” from the Washington Post
- “Obama looks to reset China ties” from Al Jazeera
- “China’s Sprint for the Gold” from the New York Times
- “China’s Role as Lender Alters Obama’s Visit” from the New York Times
- “While U.S. Economy Struggles, China’s Rises” from NPR
- “Mutual interests bind Chinese, U.S. economies” from the Los Angeles Times

November 15, 2009 7:28 PM
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