Our 44th President's final official state visit came to a merciful conclusion in Lima, Peru yesterday. The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Conference saw an essential repeat of Obama's disastrous performance and diplomatic snubbing as October's G-20 Summit in China. Obama left Peru having accomplished absolutely nothing while his enemies, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, dominated the conference.
Donald Trump's announcement that he would shelve Obama's proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) plan in January, and the repudiation of Obama's policies during the last election effectively reduced Obama's influence at APEC to that of a figurehead. The day after Trump's announcement, the Japanese Empire threw up the sponge on TPP. Even Obama's arrival in Peru was greeted by 5,000 anti-TPP protestors, and things went downhill for him from there. Vladimir Putin, however, who widely admired in South America was greeted by throngs of cheering crowds.
But, like the G-20, it was China's president Xi Jinping who set the tone for the Summit. Obama's failed 'Pivot to Asia' combined with the collapse of TPP has created an enormous power vacuum in the Pacific. Corporate Media shilling for Obama and the distractions of the 2016 Presidential Campaign have left many Americans completely unaware of how just how badly Obama's policies in the Pacific have damaged American economic and political power in the region. The losses the US sustained in the Pacific this year were monumental and left China to fill the void.
The incoming Trump Administration is definitely going to be obliged to reconsider some of Trump's hardline campaign positions vis-à-vis China. During the last year alone, the US has lost The Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore as exclusive allies to the Chinese; while Vietnam and Japan are turning to Russia. Indonesia is pursuing a more independent course, while Okinawa and South Korea have fallen into deep political unrest. Taiwan's position is increasingly precarious. During this weekend's conference, Putin and Xi discussed connecting the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union with China's New Silk Road project.
South American participants at APEC also expressed optimism at greater relations with China. Another fact that few Americans realize is that China is Latin America's 2nd-largest trading partner both in imports and exports. That relationship has only strengthened during the Obama Administration. Obama scrapped the Bush Administration proposal to create a free-trade zone in Latin America; and China reaped the benefits of that neglect. Obama's skullduggery in Mexico, Ecuador, Paraguay and Brazil have not helped US-Latin American relations either.
These things considered, it is to be hoped that Trump will follow through on his political advisors' suggestions that Mitt Romney be nominated for Secretary of State. Romney, like Trump, is a former CEO---but unlike Trump has considerable experience negotiating foreign economic deals. Romney has a good rapport with China and is well-respected in Latin America. He would be able to handle foreign affairs capably while Trump concentrates on domestic issues and internal rebuilding---which seem to be his primary focus.
Many Conservatives have little interest in global geopolitics, but Obama's utter impotence at the last G-20, ASEAN, and APEC Summits are not like we would want to see Trump. Trump is right in that rebuilding the US needs to be a top priority; but we cannot allow ourselves to fall to 2nd or 3rd-rate status in the global economy either. Trump has already shown some positive inclinations in this direction; by speaking of a new 'Bilateral Approach' to world trade. Actually, bilateralism has been the secret to China's foreign trade successes under Xi Jinping. Trump's announcement today that Nicky Haley would be UN Ambassador is also a positive step, as she is a very popular political figure in Asia.
So let us hope that APEC 2016 is the final scene in a long string of American foreign policy embarrassments. A future, less politically-correct generation is going to assess the Obama Legacy in foreign policy as an unmitigated disaster---very likely among the worst, if not the worst, administration in its handling of foreign affairs.