13 Updates for the 12th of March from the Southeast Asia Program
March 12, 2010
|TO:||Members & Friends of CSIS Southeast Asia Program
|FR:||Ernie Bower | Senior Adviser & Director
CSIS Southeast Asia
email@example.com | Tel 202 775 3277
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|RE:||13 Updates for the 12th of March from the Southeast Asia Program|
- CSIS Asia Chairs Tour Key US Cities
- President Obama delays Indonesia, Australia Trip for 3 days
- A/Sec State Kurt Campbell visits several ASEAN countries
- Burma published election guides – State “this is a setback”
- Thailand tense ahead of million man Red Shirt march
- State issues Annual Human Rights Report
- USTR goes to the Hill seeking consensus ahead of TPP negotiations
- Singapore DPM and Defense Minister Teo visits CSIS – March 15
- US Commerce Secretary Locke speaks at CSIS - Indonesia Trade Opportunities – March 17
- TPP Negotiations begin in Melbourne – March 15-19
- Prime Minister Abhisit of Thailand to speak at CSIS – April 12
- Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia to speak at CSIS – April 14
- CSIS Southeast Asia Multimedia > US Ambassador to Thailand Eric John interview
The CSIS Asia Chairs – covering Japan (Dr. Mike Green), China (Mr. Charles Freeman) and Southeast Asia (me) – took to the road this past week and visited San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago in an effort to brief some of America’s top business leaders about developments and get input and perspectives from around the country on US relations with Asia, economic recovery, and other issues. The discussions were very dynamic and quite useful.
In general, there is a real hunger out there for granular insight on Asia. Executives had very good questions and it is clear that the C-suites of the country’s top businesses are deeply engaged in Asia and see it as the key engine of growth for their companies for the foreseeable future. There was focused interest on China – and particularly whether the US is somehow heading for a conflict with the Middle Kingdom. Companies also bemoan what they say is the lack of clear signal on trade. Most industries report good progress on economic recovery and forecasts for stronger growth far outweighed more cautious predictions.
Back inside the Beltway, President Obama’s dogma ate his karma and Congressional Democrats imposed their will on him to remain in the US for three more days before going to Guam, Indonesia and Australia. Word is that he is determined to go and prove that a modern US President can walk and chew gum at the same time. He will be wheels up on March 21 from Andrews Air Force Base. A detailed description of the trip and key issues follows.
This will be a shorter update as I am about to get on the plane for Asia and will be reporting from there for the next several weeks.
The Week That Was
- Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell spent the week in the region, really logging the hours and covering ground ahead of the President’s trip. He visited Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, and is now in Brunei Darussalam I believe.
- Burma issued most of the guidelines and regulations for its national elections this year. The rules preclude Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office which was not a surprise, but also significantly curtail the involvement of the National League for Democracy and parties representing other ethnic groups. The State Department and Campbell expressed their strong disappointment and called the guidelines “a setback”.
- In Thailand, anxiety continued to build as the Red Shirts prepared for their “million man march” on Bangkok from March 12-21. In preparation for the demonstrations, the Royal Thai Government passed the Internal Security Act which will allow the military to augment police control of the crowd and use force if necessary. While the Red Shirts seek dissolution of the current Democrat led government and elections, it is not clear how the demonstrations would achieve that goal. What is clear is that Thailand remains dangerously divided.
- The State Department issued it congressionally mandated annual assessment of other countries Human Rights records. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner rolled out the report that provides particular focus on Burma in Southeast Asia. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/rm/2010/134309.htm
- On the trade front, USTR’ s team prepared for the start of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in Melbourne, Australia next week and USTR Ron Kirk took the Administration’s trade agenda to the Hill trying to reach consensus on key principles. Unsurprisingly, protectionist forces such as the milk lobby took the opportunity to seek continued protection from New Zealand’s dairy sector expressing their concerns about the TPP. http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/press-releases/2010/march/ustr-kirk-comments-constructive-meeting-house-trade-
The Week Ahead
- After a 72 hours delay, President Obama will visit Guam, Indonesia and Australia from March 21-26, 2010. The visit is a vital step towards following through on his commitment to focus US interests in the Asia Pacific region. He is demonstrating that a modern day President must be able to “walk and chew gum at the same time,” that is to balance domestic priorities, in this case passage of his health care reform package and global relationships at the same time. No US president in recent history has visited Southeast Asia apart from a regional summit, this trip breaks that mold and underlines a sophisticated understanding of the new global architecture in which relations with countries that were considered “middle powers” under the old G-7 structure are now important partners in the new G-20 framework. Both Australia and Indonesia are G-20 members.
- The President will visit Guam to meet US military and their families and underline US commitment to the Pacific Islands.
- He will then visit Indonesia, a country in which he spent several years of his youth and which he understands at a personal level unprecedented by former US presidents. The Obama Administration intends to transform the US Indonesia relationship on the same scale the Bush Administration did with India. The vehicle for this historic new level of engagement is the Comprehensive Partnership which will be unveiled during the visit. He will visit the capital Jakarta and the idyllic island of Bali. In addition to his bilateral meeting with Indonesian President Susilio Bambang Yudhuyono, he will address a joint session of the Indonesian parliament, deliver a major speech at a venue still undetermined, meet business leaders for a roundtable and consult with civil society leaders.
- In Australia, he and his friend Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will celebrate their close ties and the US-Australian alliance by marking its 70 year anniversary. He will address Parliament in Canberra, the capital and visit Sydney, the hub of Australian commerce. President Obama is likely to tell Australia that he is confident that the US Senate will ratify the US Australia Treaty on Defense Trade Cooperation (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22772.pdf).
- President Obama enjoys a very close relationship with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Advisors of both leaders confirm they talk regularly and are aligned in their outlook on many issues such as climate change and non proliferation. There has been a fortuitous synchronicity of political leadership in the US and Australia – former President Bush and former Prime Minister Howard, both conservatives, were close friends who shared a common vision on many issues. President Obama and Prime Minister Rudd, both relatively liberal compared to their predecessors, share those close ties.
- Both Rudd and Obama are facing pending elections, both are seeking to pass major health care reforms, and both want to provide global leadership on climate change and non proliferation. The visit will include ample attention to these and other G-20 issues. Prime Minister Rudd will also seek President Obama’s support for his vision of Asian regional architecture which notably includes both the US and Australia, unlike the Asia-only concepts espoused by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
- Finally, Australia will give President Obama an opportunity to point to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a proactive trade initiative involving the United States. The TPP negotiations, which include eight countries – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam – will take place from March 15-19 in Melbourne, a week before the President arrives in Australia.
- Because the trip was rescheduled from its original departure date of March 18, the First Lady and the President’s children will no longer accompany him for the visit.
- CSIS will host Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on March 15 for a private roundtable with CSIS board members and senior advisors.
- CSIS will host a keynote speech by US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke entitled “Emerging Opportunities in US Indonesia Trade” from 10-11:00 AM on March 17, 2010. The presentation will help set the stage for President Obama’s visit to Indonesia the following week. Interested parties can register at SoutheastAsiaProgram@csis.org
- US President Barack Obama visits Guam (March 21-22), Indonesia (March 23-24) and Australia (March 25-26).
- CSIS is planning to host Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for a Banyan Tree Leadership Forum address at CSIS on April 12, 2010. Invitations will be sent shortly, but interested parties can pre-register at SoutheastAsiaProgram@csis.org
- CSIS will host Malaysian Prime Minister HE Dato’ Seri Najib Razak for a seminar on US Malaysia relations, economic ties and the security cooperation at CSIS on April 14, 2010. Invitations will be sent shortly, but interest parties can pre-register at SoutheastAsiaProgram@csis.org
- CSIS Southeast Asia recorded a video interview with US Ambassador to Thailand The Hon. Eric John on March 5 and the interview will be available on http://csis.org/program/southeast-asia-program starting Monday, March 15.
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