US President Barack Obama left Japan on Sunday to return to the United States, wrapping up his 10-day tour of Asia's biggest and richest democracies (India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan).
Mr Obama departed for Asia shortly after his Democratic Party had suffered a large setback in midterm elections. Beginning in India, Mr Obama proclaimed that bilateral deals worth $10 billion would "support" around 50,000 jobs in the US. Mr Obama also encouraged India to be an East Asian power, and offered support for a permanent Indian seat on the UN Security Council.
In a visit to Indonesia which lasted less than 24 hours, Mr Obama was embraced wholeheartedly by Indonesians. He lauded the country's progress and linked it to the democratic political system.
Once in Korea, however, Mr Obama faced stiff challenges during the Group of 20 gathering from the leaders of China, Britain, Germany and Brazil over currency policy and loose fiscal stances. Mr Obama also failed to make progress on renegotiating the long-stalled free trade agreement between Korea and the US.
In Japan, Mr Obama and other APEC leaders unveiled another round of sweepping pledges to rectify global economic imbalances and move toward creating a regional free-trade zone, but made "few concrete gains" according to the New York Times. Leaders mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral free trade agreement between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore as a potential starting point.
After struggles, Obama seeks lift in Japan [New York Times, 12 Nov 2010]
Obama in Asia: the elephant outside the room [The Economist, 11 Nov 2010]
Obama and Asia-Pacific leaders vow to work toward freer trade [New York Times, 14 Nov 2010]