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Friday, November 5, 2010

Obama's 2010 Asia Trip To Create Jobs In U.S. Or India?

Obama Focuses On Economy, Both At Home And Overseas

President Obama heads to Asia Friday as part of an effort to improve U.S. trade relations, but experts say the president's perceived anti-trade rhetoric has complicated the process of reaching agreements that could benefit the U.S. economy.

Following election losses which signaled the administration should have focused more closely on the economy, the president's nine-day trip features an economy-related event in each of the four countries he's to visit.

In his post election news conference Wednesday, Mr. Obama acknowledged the American public was primarily focused on one issue in the voting booth. "I think that there is no doubt that people's number one concern is the economy," the president said. "And what they were expressing great frustration about is the fact that we haven't made enough progress on the economy."

It's a frustration the president plans to address with his Asian tour.

"The primary purpose is to take a bunch of U.S. companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia, in some of the fastest growing markets in the world. And we can create jobs here in the United States of America," President Obama said after meeting with his cabinet Thursday.

"My hope is that we've got some specific announcements that show the connection between what we're doing overseas and what happens here at home when it comes to job growth and economic growth," he added.

One specific achievement the White House hopes to announce: a deal with India, the first stop on the trip, to purchase ten Boeing C-17s. The deal, which would include training and ground equipment, could be worth as much as $5.8 billion dollars and create jobs.

The other tangible agreement the administration is hoping for: a free trade agreement with Korea. According to a statement released by the White House, Mr. Obama spoke with South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak Tuesday and expressed his hopes in using their upcoming meeting in Seoul to solidify a deal.

"If we can reach a satisfactory agreement on the key issues for American workers, we will have a deal," the statement read.

But experts say that the Asia swing is not just meant to reassure the voting public that Mr. Obama is focused on the economy, the trip is also meant to send a message to worried Asian partners. "The big mess the president has to cope the economic message," says Ernie Bower of the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

While in India, Mr. Obama is scheduled to address the U.S. India Business and Entrepreneurship Summit. He will also meet with a group of U.S. CEO's in India to "discuss the opportunities and challenges of doing business in India." Among the CEOs: David Cote of Honeywell, Jeffrey Immelt of GE, Terry McGraw of the Mcgraw Hill Companies, Jim McNerney of Boeing and Indra Nooyi of Pepsico.

In Indonesia, the president will deliver a "major speech" in which he will stress the Muslim majority country's growing role in the international economy. In Seoul, he will be joining other leaders at the G-20 Summit to discuss international economic issues such as the global financial crisis and currency revaluation. Finally, Mr. Obama will head to Japan for the 18th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.

"Every leader is going to grab him by lapels and ask him, ‘How is the U.S. economy and is it recovering, and when are you getting back to a leadership role on trade?'" Bower says.

Experts say the perceived weakness of the U.S. economy and fears of rising U.S. protectionism create major economic uncertainties for Asian economies that are reliant on U.S. consumers to drive exports.

Some argue the president's "misguided rhetoric" on the campaign trail didn't help matters.

"The president would be wise to drop once and for all the divisive line about shipping jobs overseas -- it doesn't do much politically or diplomatically," said Dan Griswold of the CATO Institute in Washington.

"India in some ways is a challenging stop for the president because during the campaign, he made a big fuss of tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas," said Griswold.

Just last month, President Obama focused on this topic in his weekly address.

"For years, our tax code has actually given billions of dollars in tax breaks that encourage companies to create jobs and profits in other countries," Mr. Obama said who then turned his criticism to the GOP. "Over the last four years alone, Republicans in the House voted 11 times to continue rewarding corporations that create jobs and profits overseas -- a policy that costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year. That doesn't make a lot sense. It doesn't make sense for American workers, American businesses, or America's economy."

Of course, the president did acknowledge in this October 16 address that, "A lot of companies that do business internationally make an important contribution to our economy here at home. That's a good thing." Nonetheless, experts say the president will have to address his own "divisive" rhetoric once in Asia.

"So the president has been on the one hand, in the heat of the campaign, demonizing that economic integration, and on the other hand, he's going to go over there and what's he going to say?" asks Griswold.

"I think what he's going to see on the ground over there will be in direct contradiction to the way he was mis-portraying things on the campaign trail," says Griswold who argues the economic success in Asia, specifically in India, is in part because the country has followed the U.S. model of doing business, and those achievements should be praised.

"Our big ace in the hole with India is the growing commercial relationship and the president should be celebrating it, not demonizing," as he did during the midterm election cycle, Griswold argues.

Fuzzy Math Dogs Obama’s Asia Trip

As if Tuesday’s "Shellacking" wasn’t enough, President Barack Obama is getting pilloried by the right on the cost of his 10-day trip to Asia, with outlandish hyperventilation going directly from suspect Indian media reports to conservative U.S. media outlets and commentators without a pause for fact-checking.

First, the Press Trust of India reported that Mr. Obama’s entourage would be spending $200 million a day for two days in India, a claim that was quickly repeated last night by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) on CNN. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said, “The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality,” and are “wildly inflated,” but “due to security concerns,” he would not offer an alternative price tag., a website devoted to myth busting, noted that even if the Indian press has correctly reported the size of the president’s entourage – 3,000 – the cost would work out to $66,000 per person per day, “a figure that stretches credulity to the breaking point.” noted that the entire war in Afghanistan costs $190 million a day.

But the report is demonstrably incorrect. It says the White House had blocked off the entire Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai – it hasn’t – and that the press traveling with Mr. Obama will be staying there. We won’t. Besides, the press pays its own way at considerable cost to the media outlets, not the U.S. taxpayer.

Now a new rumor has emerged courtesy of India’s NDTV. Mr. Obama, the outlet says, “will be protected by a fleet of 34 warships, including an aircraft carrier, which will patrol the sea lanes off the Mumbai coast.” The White House called that ridiculous. But on the conservative Drudge Report website, it’s on the home page – in huge type.

U.S. To Spend $200 MN A Day On Obama's Mumbai Visit

The U.S. would be spending a whopping $200 million (Rs. 900 crore approx) per day on President Barack Obama's visit to the city.

"The huge amount of around $200 million would be spent on security, stay and other aspects of the Presidential visit," a top official of the Maharashtra Government privy to the arrangements for the high-profile visit said.

About 3,000 people including Secret Service agents, US government officials and journalists would accompany the President. Several officials from the White House and US security agencies are already here for the past one week with helicopters, a ship and high-end security instruments.

"Except for personnel providing immediate security to the President, the US officials may not be allowed to carry weapons. The state police is competent to take care of the security measures and they would be piloting the Presidential convoy," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Navy and Air Force has been asked by the state government to intensify patrolling along the Mumbai coastline and its airspace during Obama's stay. The city's airspace will be closed half-an-hour before the President's arrival for all aircraft barring those carrying the US delegation.

The personnel from SRPF, Force One, besides the NSG contingent stationed here would be roped in for the President's security, the official said.

The area from Hotel Taj, where Obama and his wife Michelle would stay, to Shikra helipad in Colaba would be cordoned off completely during the movement of the President.

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Sources: Asia Society, CNN, Drudge Report, Fact Check, Fox News, NDTV,, Wall Street Journal, Yahoo News, Youtube, Google Maps

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