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Not travelling to Asia a 'missed opportunity': Obama

Washington, PTI | Updated : 09 October 2013, 08:43 AM

US President Barack Obama has termed the cancellation of his week-long Asia trip, an outcome of a showdown with Republican lawmakers, as a "missed opportunity" but expected no lasting impact in the region from his absence.

"In the short term, I would characterise it as missed opportunities. We continue to be the one indispensable nation," Obama said on Tuesday.

He observed that cancelling his week-long Asia trip, which would have taken him to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines, would not have a lasting impact on the American influence in the region.

"There are countries across Asia who have welcomed our pivot because they want to do business with us, they admire our economy, they admire our entrepreneurs, they know that their growth is going to be contingent on working with us," he said.

"They care about the security environment that we've maintained, helped maintain, and the freedom of navigation and commerce that is so important to them," Obama said.

"So it's not as if they've got other places to go. They want us to be there and they want to work with us," he added.

Obama said he apologised to the host nations for not travelling.

"I can tell you, because I had to apologise to some of the host countries, that they understood that the most important thing I can do for them and the most important thing I can do for the bilateral relationship and America's reputation is making sure that we reopen our government and we don't
default," he said.

In each of these big meetings, he said, a lot of business gets done.

"In the same way that a CEO of a company, if they want to close a deal, aren't going to do it by phone, you know, they want to show up and look at somebody eye to eye and tell them why it's important and shake hands on a deal, the same thing is true with respect to world leaders," he said.

"The irony is, our teams probably do more to organise a lot of these multilateral forums and set the agenda than anybody. We end up being engaged much more than China, for example, in setting the agenda and moving this stuff forward," Obama said.

"And so when not showing up to my own party. I think it creates a sense of concern on the part of other leaders. But as long as we get through this, they'll understand it, and we'll be able to, I believe, still get these deals done," said the US President.

When asked if his absence would benefit the Chinese, he  said, "I'm sure the Chinese don't mind that I'm there right now, in the sense that, there are areas where we have differences and they can present their point of view and not get as much of push-back as if I were there, although Secretary of State (John) Kerry is there, and I'm sure he's doing a great job.

"Obama reiterated that US's cooperation with China's not a zero- sum game. There are a lot of areas where the Chinese and us agree," he said.

First Published: Wednesday, October 09, 2013 08:42 AM
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