Groudhog Day at the APEC Summit

It’s difficult to know where to begin my criticism of Obama’s performance at the APEC summit in Honolulu this week.  First, there’s his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.  (See http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/13/apec-obama-ceo-china-idUSN1E7AB0AF20111113.)  It seems that Obama “adopted a more steely tone” with the Chinese president in conveying Americans’ frustration with China. 

“What I have said since I first came into office and what we’ve exhibited in terms of our interactions with the Chinese is we want you to play by the rules. And currency is probably a good example,” Obama said.

“He made it very clear that the American people and the American business community were growing increasingly impatient and frustrated with the state of change in China economic policy and the evolution of the U.S.-China economic relationship,” senior White House aide Michael Froman told reporters.

Wow, that’s really tough.  The President didn’t just make his feelings clear, he made them very clear.  Maybe he felt he wasn’t clear enough the last time they had this discussion, or the time before that, or the time before that.  The next time, he’ll be very, very clear.  After that, he’ll make it abundantly clear.  And so on. 

I can just see the Chinese president, rolling his eyes and simultaneously stifling a condescending chuckle.  As long as Obama doesn’t talk about implementing tariffs, Hu couldn’t care less what Obama has to say.  He knows it’s just talk – the same talk he’s heard dozens of times before.  The same talk other nations like Japan heard countless times before China came along.  It’s all a performance designed to give the voters back in the states the impression that he’s doing something about the economy. 

Obama has also been meeting with some other APEC members, without China in attendance, to try to open up their markets and make China nervous about losing some of America’s business.  He’s sort of saying, “We’ll show you, China.”  “We’ll take our trade deficit elsewhere.”  Okay, that might make China a little nervous, but it doesn’t do anything to restore a balance of trade and bring jobs back to the U.S.  Anytime a U.S. president or his trade delegation tries to “open up markets,” watch out.  As we’ve seen time and again, these nations want something in return, and that something is always the same thing – we open up our market first.  Goodbye jobs. 

Or how about the president calling the U.S. “lazy?” 

 in remarks that could cause political ripples back in Washington, Obama also took his own country to task, saying it needed to do more to encourage foreign investors to seek opportunities in the United States.

In a question-and-answer session at the business forum moderated by Boeing Co chief executive James McNerney, Obama said the United States is attractive to businesses because of its open economy, innovativeness and stability.

“But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America,” Obama said.

Wow, that’ll really endear him to voters back home.  “New business?”  Get a clue, Mr. President.  Every “new business” that has come along in the last two decades began in America but was quickly outsourced.  Personal computers, cell phones, I-pods, I-pads – you name it.  But can you name one product that’s been invented here in the last two decades that’s still here?  Thanks to the trade policies implemented by your predecessors, policies which you now embrace, we can’t even keep our own new businesses here.  Why would somebody else bring their’s here? 

Finally, there’s this – Obama telling the APEC nations that our prosperity depends on them.  (See http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2011/11/obama-us-prosperity-depends-on-asia-pacific-nations/1.) 

President Obama opened the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit today by telling regional leaders that economic recovery in the United States depends on Asian-Pacific nations.

“We’re not going to be able to put our folks back to work and grow our economy and expand opportunity unless the Asia-Pacific region is also successful,” the president said.

That’s not what history tells us.  Back when China was still a stauchly communist nation, the U.S. had no trade with China whatsoever, and Americans were far better off for it.  Everyone knows that if China suddenly sank into the sea, America would enjoy an instantaneous economic revival. 

But I know what the president is saying – what he thinks.  He thinks like economists – that if these grossly overpopulated Asian nations would just transform themselves into American-style consumers, they’ll buy just as much from us as we buy from them, boosting exports and restoring a balance of trade. 

Never mind the obvious question about how much sense it makes to produce the same products on both sides of the Pacific and then burn billions of gallons of fuel in container ships in order to swap them.  The real problem is that it can never happen.  People who live in such badly overcrowded conditions found in many of these APEC nations, stacked like cord wood in rabbit hutches, have no room for home furnishings, no room to drive cars, no lawns to mow, no gardens to maintain and no recreation or sports facilities.  They only have enough room to dress, cram like sardines into their commuter trains and take up their posts at the factory jobs that they robbed from Americans because they’re incapable of having a healthy domestic economy of their own.

Our economy depends on growth in APEC nations?  In 2010, our trade deficit with APEC nations was $462 billion.  Our economy’s demise has been at the hands of APEC nations.  It’s recovery depends on restoring a balance of trade with those nations, and that depends on the use of tariffs to make it happen.  Decades of experience have proven that all the talk in the world – the same talk we heard again last week at the APEC summit – will make no difference whatsoever.

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  But that’s exactly what the U.S. does at every trade negotiation, every G8 meeting, every G20 meeting, every World Trade Organization meeting and every APEC summit.  Like in the movie “Groundhog Day,” the same idiotic scene plays out over and over and over, like a bad dream.  And, as Einstein noted, the results are always the same.  Obama will return home, feeling optimistic about the effect his performance will have on his poll numbers, and the economy will sink further along with Americans’ incomes.

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