With free trade deal, Obama solidifies US pivot to Asia

US President Barack Obama, pictured in Tokyo on November 14, 2009, said "As America's first Pacific president, I promise you that this Pacific nation will strengthen and sustain our leadership in this vitally important part of the world"The conclusion of an oft-delayed free trade agreement with Asia-Pacific nations is timely for Barack Obama, as it embodies the American president’s earlier commitment: a pivot towards the globe’s most populous continent. With dithering in the Middle East and in particular Syria triggering an avalanche of criticism, Obama can claim a genuine diplomatic success fewer than 16 months before the end of his presidency, provided that he can overcome the obstacle known as the US Congress. The centerpiece of his foreign policy, the rebalance or “pivot” to Asia popularized by Hillary Clinton when she served as secretary of state, is intended to devote more diplomatic, security and economic resources and attention to the continent after a decade monopolized by Middle East crises and costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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