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Travel once energized Biden, but Asia trip offers little relief from political woes

Noah Bierman and Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

Several of the countries that agreed to participate, including Japan, said they would prefer a more substantial trade pact that would lower tariffs and open markets. But Biden, hemmed in by political opposition on the left and right, has ruled out such a deal.

Getting a dozen countries to sign on showed a broader regional consensus than some thought might be achievable, Green said, even if the path toward making a new Indo-Pacific trade pact a reality is still uncertain.

“The big question mark hanging over this administration, which will not go away, is are these guys going to get serious about economic statecraft or are they just going to cede the field to China?” he said. But, he continued, the broader continuity among leaders — Modi’s neutrality on Ukraine being the one glaring exception — made for a relatively smooth five days abroad.

“American presidents don’t always get leaders in the region who are so well attuned to and closely aligned with their view of the world,” Green said of Yoon, Kishida and Albanese, whose positions on democracy, trade, North Korea and Ukraine all lined up with Biden’s. “These leaders were determined to make Joe Biden look good and make America look strong.”

The trip did not generate the kind of news coverage back home that might improve Biden’s currently low standing with the public.

For instance, there was little assurance that Biden’s other economic announcement — a $5.5 billion Hyundai electric vehicle plant in Georgia — would meet his administration’s political promise to promote union jobs. Georgia is a so-called right-to-work state and most of the corporations that build there see the ability to hire non-union workers as a plus.

 

And while Biden and Yoon appeared united in confronting North Korea, Biden offered no progress on curtailing Kim Jong Un’s advancing nuclear weapons program, conceding that Kim has rebuffed administration offers to negotiate.

Asked by a reporter whether he had a message for Kim, Biden responded simply “Hello. Period.”

Biden struck a bolder tone when he was asked whether America would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if needed.

“Yes,” Biden responded on Monday. “That’s the commitment we made.”

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