United States President Barack Obama on Saturday announced America’s participation in the evolving Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and declared that Washington “does not seek to contain China”.
Mr. Obama, who set out his Asia-Pacific vision in a policy speech in Tokyo, later arrived here to participate in a two-day summit of the forum of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Until his arrival, even as an exclusive “Singapore Evening” of multicultural show began in honour of the summit participants, the U.S. was represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the first-day session.
Speaking at the summit retreat or brainstorming session earlier in the day, Ms. Clinton quoted Mr. Obama as having said that the U.S. would engage with the TPP “with the goal of shaping a regional agreement that will have a broad-based membership and the high standards worthy of a 21st century trade agreement”. The TPP, for which negotiations will start early next year, will now bring together the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The day’s discussions, at the summit and related meetings, were dominated by two other ideas as well for a new regional architecture of cooperation.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said his proposal of an East Asia Community was synonymous with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd’s initiative for the formation of an Asia Pacific Community. Mr. Hatoyama said the existing ten-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) could serve as the core of a potential broader regional community for economic cooperation. An additional focus on security would lead to a further enlargement of any such grouping, he said.
Later, Japanese spokesman Kazuo Kodama said, on the sidelines of the summit, that Mr. Hatoyama’s proposal was a “long-term vision”. By suggesting that East Asians “embrace an open regionalism,” he was planning to translate this into reality through issue-based “functional cooperation.”
India is not an APEC member; but Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva emphatically referred to the ongoing Indian participation in the parallel forum of East Asia Summit. And, in an interesting sidelight, both he and Mexican President Felipe Calderon cited Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as one of the influential economists of the time.
In Tokyo, Mr. Obama said the U.S. and Japan had now reaffirmed their alliance and “agreed to deepen it.” On a parallel front, “the rise of a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations,” he said.