President Obama will be most remembered for his so-called “Pivot to Asia” policy which emphasized that the United States needed to rebalance its diplomatic and economic efforts in the direction of Asia, particularly in the light of how important this region would be for US interests in the future. That was essentially what motivated the shift, and it manifested itself in the rejuvenation of alliances, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and in Obama’s frequent trips to the region.
Pivot to Asia
The concept of the United States pivoting to and rebalancing with Asia was itself important. The United States has, traditionally, had a Eurocentric focus, and so President Obama’s statement that “we would be shifting to Asia” was important. His decision also reflected the demographics of the country. About 80 percent of Americans aged 18-25 see their future connected to Asia in some way. So they very much supported the pivot to Asia policy.
The Obama administration’s most significant achievement in Asia has been to establish an enduring framework for engagement with Southeast Asia. Since the Vietnam War, American diplomacy in Southeast Asia has been episodic, often buffeted by more pressing challenges such as human rights or terrorism. Obama’s real “rebalance” is between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. He joined the East Asia Summit, which is hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and he established his own US-ASEAN summit.
The ambitious, 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was one of the biggest successes of the Obama administration. Many people thought such a free trade agreement would be very difficult to achieve, especially one that included the United States and Japan, which have the second and the third largest economies in the world, respectively. However, the Obama administration successfully negotiated the trade pact. The agreement, the largest regional trade accord ever, brought together the United States and 11 other nations in a free-trade zone for about 40 percent of the world’s economy. It was intended to lower tariffs while establishing rules for resolving trade disputes, setting patents and protecting intellectual property. On the home front, although Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other congressional Republicans worked with Mr Obama to pass legislation granting fast-track authority to negotiate it over Democratic objections, Mr Obama never submitted the final agreement for approval amid vocal opposition. He was not able to ratify the deal in Congress.
Iran Nuclear Deal
The nuclear agreement that the US and five allies reached with Iran in 2015 was also a big success of Obama administration. The Obama administration attacked the most critical problem — Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons — and negotiated terms that paused Iran’s quest to develop a nuclear strike capability. By design, the agreement did not solve many other problems with Iran, including its support for the Syrian government and for insurgents in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
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