Secretary of State Kerry reiterates U.S. commitment to Asia

APECKate Lamb reports for Voice of America, Oct. 7, 2013, that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has reassured APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) leaders gathered in Bali, Indonesia, that American commitment to the region is unwavering.

Obama’s absence at the APEC summit, part of his canceled Asian tour, has prompted criticism that America’s much-touted ‘Asia pivot’ also is transient.

But Kerry said the partial U.S. government shutdown that led to Obama’s absence at APEC is a mere footnote, and in a hyper globalized world a secure economic system is the best antidote to religious fundamentalism.

U.S. attention has continued to be occupied by political instability in the Middle East and a civil war in Syria, all at a time when China is shoring up regional ties.

Analysts say Obama’s absence has given China a critical advantage. As an example, in a prelude to the APEC summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a $33-billion trade deal with Indonesia and pledged to significantly boost trade with neighboring Malaysia by 2017.

Obama had planned to push forward negotiations at the APEC summit for the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] — a U.S.-led open-market trade bloc between 12 major economies including Japan, Canada and Mexico, which excludes China.

Speaking at the forum on Monday, Kerry emphasized TPP remains a key element of the Obama’s administration Asia pivot: “We understand how critical this is. At its core, TPP is about generating growth for our economies and jobs for our people by unleashing a wave of investment and entrepreneurship, all across the Asia Pacific. This comes at a time when we all seek strong and sustainable growth. TPP is creating a race to the top, not to the bottom.”

APEC’s 21 member countries account for more than half of global GDP and about 44% of world trade.

Following the APEC meeting that ends Monday, John Kerry will travel with a U.S. delegation to Brunei to attend the East Asia Summit.

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