Loory: The leaders of 21 nations of the Asian-Pacific region gathered to meet in Sydney, Australia, this past weekend. The Pacific Rim includes countries stretching from Canada and Chile to China. This summit involved President George Bush from the United States, President Hu Jintao from China, President Vladimir Putin from Russia, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from Japan, President Roh Moo-hyun from Korea and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono from Indonesia. The host was Prime Minister John Howard of Australia. President Bush held one-on-one meetings with all of these leaders in appreciation of how important their countries have become to the U.S. He had a long meeting with Howard, who expressed Australia’s support for the Iraq War and pledged to keep Australia’s small contingent in Iraq despite an upcoming election in which the war will be a major issue. Other problems discussed at the summit were free trade and environmental issues. The U.S. refuses to ratify the Kyoto agreement that would regulate the amount of carbon dioxide each industrialized nation can put into the atmosphere. The world trade issue was intended to jump-start the stalled talks of the 151-member World Trade Organization known as the Doha Round, aimed at promoting free trade. What was the most important thing about this meeting for Australians?
Tim Colebatch, economics editor, The Age newspaper, Sydney, Australia: After 11 years as prime minister, Howard is having this moment of international glory as the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, but it will probably be his swan song. The government is well behind the opposition in the polls for the upcoming election and few people expect Howard to win. He has tried to make global warming the big issue of the summit, and he was hoping that Australia and the U.S. could join together as the only two significant countries not to sign the Kyoto Protocol.
Loory: Will this idea go down well with China and other APEC leaders?
Shaowen Lin, director, Russia and East Europe division, China Radio International, Beijing: No, it won’t. China balks at any hints that it should impose a cap on its emissions, and that alone has prevented any significant agreement at this summit. China is prepared to take its own approach to reducing emissions and to use the clean-development mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, in which Western countries and companies can buy carbon credits by sponsoring emission reductions in China.
Loory: Does Bush feel that he is wasting his time by attending the APEC meeting?
Roland Flamini, foreign policy columnist, Congressional Quarterly, Washington, D.C.: It is perhaps the other way around. As Asian leaders meet him in bilateral talks, they must be wondering whether there is any point in talking to him. The beginning of the presidential election campaigns in the U.S. makes the Bush administration look like a lame duck presidency. Also, everybody realizes when they begin to talk with Bush how distracted his administration is with Iraq. Nothing seems to penetrate through that concern.
Loory: It seems that Bush and Howard have gotten along well and that there was some significance to their talks. Is that the view in Australia?
Colebatch: These two are soul mates in that both of them are lame ducks. They are the last two national leaders standing from the coalition of the willing in Iraq, and there is no question that there is a strong friendship between them. Bush has been criticized for ignoring Asia, but Bush talked about Taiwan, product safety and multilateral trade talks with Hu. Iraq doesn’t rate a mention at this summit. It was an issue between Bush and Howard, as they both reaffirmed their commitments to see it through, but since neither will be there long enough to see it through, it’s a bit of a distraction.
Loory: The Asian-Pacific Rim is growing more important not only to world economics but to world security. What is China’s president doing in Sydney, and what he is doing to counter dominance by the U.S.?
Lin: It depends on whom Hu is meeting with. Climate change is the issue that China must carefully handle the pros and cons of. It doesn’t want to be driven to take an approach advocated by others, but it wants to cooperate with others. It faces the dynamic of generating jobs to solve the high unemployment rate, but it also wants to make sure that carbon dioxide emissions and sulfur dioxide emissions will be reduced bit by bit.
Loory: There is talk of Asian-Pacific free trade areas stretching from Chile and Canada to China. Is that something to be taken seriously?
Colebatch: The ministers have pretty well ruled out the prospect of such a deal. Firstly, only a small number of countries want it. Washington has said that it wants the idea, and there are a handful of veterans of the free trade agreements, like Mexico, Chile and New Zealand, who would like it, but other countries say this is not what we think it is. The Indonesian minister pointed out that it would change the character of APEC quite a lot if one tried to negotiate a free trade agreement across this vast area. Secondly, the same arguments that come up in the Doha Round would also come up in an APEC negotiation but without the benefit of having all the major players because, for example, India is not a member.
Loory: India is not a member of APEC but it is an emerging Asian power. Does India feel left out because it is not a member of APEC and does it feel it should be a member?
Narayani Ganesh, senior assistant editor, The Times of India, New Delhi: India applied for a place in the early 1990s and because of the 10-year moratorium on APEC membership, it was not approved. The moratorium is going to be extended, so there isn’t going to be a chance this year. There is also a feeling that the West feels that India’s membership would tip the balance of power towards Asia, so many people say that is the reason why there is no consensus.
Colebatch: The problem is the U.S. is against India being a member, partly because of India’s stance in the Doha Round. This is a way of punishing India.
Ganesh: The Doha Round is not entirely fair to the developing countries. All India wants is for the developed world to take a look at the farm subsidies because trade status has to be agreeable to both parties. These things just need further discussion and debate.
Colebatch: The message we got from Bush and Hu is that it’s difficult, but the gaps are a lot smaller than they were three months ago. It’s not inconceivable that there will be a Doha Round agreement.
Loory: It is important to consider whether future American presidents will have the impact that presidents today have at such meetings, or whether we’re entering a century in which China, India or other Asian-Pacific countries will have leaders who will be the most important members of such summits.
Producers of Global Journalist are Missouri School of Journalism graduate students Devin Benton, Yue Li, Heather Perne and Catherine Wolf.
Stuart Loory, who holds the Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies at the MU School of Journalism, is the moderator of the weekly radio program “Global Journalist.” It airs at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays on KBIA/91.3 FM or at www.globaljournalist.org.