"When one of the 21's leaders, Barack Obama, fails to show up for their annual summit, it is taken as an important symbol of his administration's failure to live up to the promise implied in its much-touted "pivot" or "rebalancing" to Asia. It certainly is such a symbol; and the damage it has done to America's standing and credibility in the region may last rather longer than the memory of any concrete agreement that comes out of the summit itself."
The Economist has long been rather sceptical about the utility of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum. We have trotted out the old jokes: "A Perfect Excuse for a Chat"; or the jibe from a former Australian foreign minister, Gareth Evans, that it was "four adjectives in search of a noun" (with the gloss that what it really needed was a verb, a doing word).
In 2007 we even suggested it does more harm than good: "Its very existence creates the illusion that something is being done and so weakens other efforts to reach meaningful agreements on, for example, climate change and trade."