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Pivot Necessary to Sustain Long-Term U.S. Interests

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
October 29, 2013
Global Times

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In an ideal world, US President Barack Obama would have traveled to Asia for the recent APEC and ASEAN meetings, waved the American flag, and reassured the region once again of US commitment.

However, the world is a flawed place, and instead President Obama was stuck in Washington, DC to weigh in on the congressional wrangling over the budget and his healthcare plan.

Some analysts have posited that the president's absence signaled the death of the pivot, but such an assessment represents a fundamental misunderstanding of US policy.

The US pivot to the Asia-Pacific region is about three things. First, it is about US interests.

There is a recognition that the US has important and enduring interests in the region that demand greater attention.

The region is a dynamic force in the global economy, and the US wants to grow its trade and investment relationships there.

Second, regional security is also a US priority, especially maintaining the openness and security of the sea lanes through which nearly 50 percent of global trade, including one-fourth of US trade, flows.

Then there's the politics of the region. The Asia-Pacific is a region where nascent or not-quite democracies, such as Myanmar, Malaysia, and Cambodia, can benefit from US assistance in developing the rule of law, transparency, and other fundamentals of good governance.

This matters to the US for human rights reasons, as well as for these states' ability to contribute to global good governance on issues such as intellectual property rights protection and food and product safety.

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