President Barack Obama claimed a stronger hand on the world stage Friday despite electoral defeats at home, failure to get a free-trade agreement with South Korea and lackluster international support for his get-tough policy with China on trade and currency disputes.
“It wasn’t any easier to talk about currency when I was first elected and my poll numbers were at 65 percent,” Obama argued at the close of the G-20 summit, after bluntly accusing Beijing of undervaluing its currency.
The president flew to Japan for the APEC summit without the coveted trade pact with Korea or a united front with other countries against China’s currency policy. He also endured a gusher of criticism from other countries about a decision by the U.S. central bank to pump $600 billion into the U.S. economy, something China, Germany and others believe could weaken the dollar and lead to inflation.
After the talks here beginning Saturday, Obama will return to the U.S. to confront Republicans empowered by their gains in this month’s midterm elections.
Even so, the president contended that his standing with world leaders is not diminished.
“When I came into office people might have been interested in more photo-ops,” the president said, because of the “hoopla surrounding my election.”
But he contended he has now developed genuine friendships with leaders including Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak — and even Chinese President Hu Jintao.