Updated: 10/07/2013 18:30 | By Agence France-Presse

China grabs limelight as US hobbled at Asia-Pacific summit

China took centre-stage on Monday as Asia-Pacific leaders opened an annual economic summit in the shadow of global growth clouds that are darkening by the day with the US government paralysed by infighting.


China grabs limelight as US hobbled at Asia-Pacific summit

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) talks to China's President Xi Jinping (right) as they arrive for a retreat session at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013

The US federal shutdown has stopped President Barack Obama from attending the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on the Indonesian island of Bali, and another summit this week of East Asian leaders in Brunei.

US Secretary of State John Kerry stressed anew Obama's determination to remain engaged with the Pacific Rim region, but his absence has left the arena clear for the leader of one-party China to trumpet the mounting heft of the world's second largest economy.

Interviewed by the Jakarta Post, President Xi Jinping said the "world economy has entered a period of deep readjustment" but China was ready to lead the way to a brighter day as part of "the world’s most dynamic and most promising region".

The communist leader has been touring Southeast Asia, where there is much disquiet about China's territorial ambitions, and also touted the benefits of free trade pacts after securing commercial deals worth tens of billions of dollars in Indonesia and Malaysia. 

China is involved in talks on a trade agreement grouping 16 East Asian nations just as Washington's rival "Trans-Pacific Partnership" (TPP) of 12 countries appears to be running into trouble.

While sympathetic to Obama's political plight, the leaders of US allies in APEC such as Singapore expressed disappointment that he had been unable to throw his presidential weight personally behind the TPP and Washington's stop-start "pivot" towards Asia.

Foreign friends and rivals alike, as well as financial markets, are worried by a threat bigger even than the shutdown: the possibility that the US government might default on its colossal debts unless Congress raises the federal borrowing limit by October 17.

An unprecedented default by the holder of the world's reserve currency would affect "the entire planet, and not just those countries with a strong geographical and economic linkage to the US", Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said at an APEC business summit. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed similar sentiments to the business leaders gathered for the event.

"The dollar of the United States is still the biggest reserve currency in the world, so it is of utmost importance to all of us," he said."

But Kerry, taking Obama's place at APEC, said the president's epic tussle with the Republicans was merely "a moment in politics" that did not deflect the United States from its strategic goals.

"I want to emphasise that there is nothing that will shake the commitment of the rebalance to Asia that President Obama is leading," Kerry told the business forum.

The United States is stumbling politically at a moment when, according to a statement by APEC foreign and trade ministers, the world economy can ill afford more instability following the 2008 financial crisis.

Previewing Tuesday's final summit declaration in Bali, the ministers said that "global growth is too weak, risks remain tilted to the downside, and the economic outlook suggests growth is likely to be slower and less balanced than desired".

Before he called off his foreign travel, Obama intended to throw his presidential weight behind a top-level round of talks among the TPP countries in Bali on Tuesday.

But doubts about the TPP are gathering pace, and also about Obama's vaunted "pivot".

Attending APEC "would have been a golden opportunity for America and President Obama himself to show leadership in that context of the new emphasis towards Asia", Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

Obama was also forced to cancel visits to Malaysia and the Philippines due to the shutdown.

The perennial disputes that hobble all trade agreements, such as market access and protection of intellectual property, are rearing anew in the TPP negotiations and Najib sees the end-of-year deadline as "very tight".

But Kerry said a deal was still achievable in the timeframe, as he sought to sell the merits of the pact.

"At a time when all of us seek strong and sustainable growth, TPP is creating a race to the top, not to the bottom. It is reaching for the highest standards of all," he said in his speech. 

Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn

NEWS VIDEOS

MORE NEWS VIDEOS

facebook recommendations

LIVE NEWS RADIO STREAMING

  • 938 Live

    938LIVE is Singapore's only English news and talk station which transmits round the clock with an engaging and enticing spread of programmes on current affairs, health, business and lifestyle as well as news every half hour until midnight.

  • Capital 958


    95.8FM城市频道的前身是"第三广播网"。上个世纪30年代末,新加坡就有中文广播,一路走来经过不少政治,社会局势的改变,中文广播在本地一直扮演举足轻重的角色。