As usual, President Obama fails to think about long-term solutions to our economy. His role in the shutdown is one example, but a far more dangerous decision was his willingness to cancel his trip to Indonesia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC). The outcome of this decision could stop the creation of millions of good-paying American jobs.
According to data from APEC, its members — including the United States and China, Russia, Mexico, Canada and 16 other countries — account for about 40 percent of the world's population, 55 percent of global gross domestic product and about 44 percent of world trade. Trade within APEC has grown nearly sevenfold since 1989, topping $11 trillion in 2011.
Opening up free trade to most of Asia would give the U.S. economy a boost that would set us on course for export expansion, an explosion of new entrepreneurs getting involved in trade and creating jobs throughout the country.
Worse, by cancelling his trip to Indonesia, Obama has given the spotlight to China; exactly what he vowed he wanted to stop.
Secretary of State John Kerry replaced Obama at the opening, leaving Chinese President Xi Jinping as the dominant leader at a gathering devoted to achieving greater economic integration.
It's like attending a gala and finding that your table is by the kitchen.
"Mr. Xi, the keynote speaker, delivered a long, tightly scripted speech that made no reference to Mr. Obama and concentrated on the theme of Chinese economic overhaul at home, and the need for China to have the Asia-Pacific region as a partner abroad," The New York Times reported.
"China cannot develop in isolation of the Asia-Pacific, and the Asia-Pacific cannot prosper without China," Xi said.
The story went on to suggest that the absence of Obama was repeatedly noted at the conference.
A report from the summit noted that some prominent Indonesians had joked after Obama decided not to attend that the United States was "playing checkers while the Chinese play chess."
One of the outcomes of Obama's cancellation is that the United States had hoped that President Park Geun-hye of South Korea would announce at the meeting that Seoul was ready to join the negotiations. But without Obama present, South Korean officials said Park would not make that declaration in Bali.
The timing could not be worse, considering that the United States recently signed a free trade agreement with South Korea. To give you a feel for how important our free trade agreement with South Korea is, the expected result is U.S. exports to South Korea will grow by as much as $11 billion and support a minimum of 70,000 new U.S. jobs.
John Kurtz, head of the Asia Pacific region for A. T. Kearney, is reported to have said that Obama's absence "was particularly damaging to American interests here in Indonesia, where the growing economy has been bolstered by a stronger Chinese presence that until a few years ago was resisted."
China recognized the opportunity to make inroads in Indonesia and Xi visited Indonesia recently to announce that China would open a $50 billion infrastructure bank to service the region.
The United States has been trying to close a lucrative free trade agreement with Indonesia for many years and the summit would have been the perfect opportunity to advance our position.
The diminishment of the United States on the world stage bodes far-reaching consequences. An America that is perceived as weakened sends a message to our allies that we may not be able to help them. But it also sends a message to our enemies that we may be unable to address threats around the world.
How bad is it? Russian President Vladimir Putin is quoted as saying that he understood Obama's decision to cancel his trip to Asia and would have done the same if faced with the same domestic challenges.
That's all that we need — an endorsement of our policy from Russia.
If I wasn't mad enough about the situation in Bali, Kerry, replacing Obama at the summit, had the audacity to joke: "In 2004, obviously, I worked very, very hard to replace a president [referring to his unsuccessful campaign against President George W. Bush], but this is not what I had in mind."
This is no joking matter. The future of this nation's economic growth rests with increasing exports. When exports rise, new small businesses come on line, and with it, the creation of millions of good-paying, full-time jobs — not the rising tide of part-time, low-paying jobs created under Obama.
I continue to refer to Obama's pledge to double exports by 2015. The way things are going, I'm fearful that we may be moving in the opposite direction.
If you want to experience the true nightmare of a shutdown, it's when U.S. exports are shut down. The repercussions will live on for decades.
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