Sarawak Report: Tarek Obaid Questioned


September 24, 2016

SARAWAK REPORT

Tarek Obaid Questioned In Saudi EXCLUSIVE

 

Tarek Obaid Questioned In Saudi EXCLUSIVE

Sarawak Report has learnt that Saudi Arabia has added to the list of countries taking an interest in investigating 1MDB, after the Saudi national and shareholder/director of PetroSaudi International, Tarek Obaid, was pulled in for questioning in recent days.

This will surprise those who have expressed the opinion that certain well-connected people related to 1MDB are ‘above the law’ in Saudi, as has appeared to have been the case so far in Malaysia.

Saudi Arabia has been placed in a delicate position by this scandal, ever since the Malaysian Prime Minister chose to claim that the $681 million and other sums which entered his accounts, were a ‘donation’ from an anonymous Saudi Royal.

One BBC report and a UK Telegraph article had indicated that (according to their sources) the ‘donor’ was Prince Turki a seventh son of the previous King Abdullah and co-founder of PetroSaudi.

The country’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir had originally given his opinion that this was unlikely to be the case. However, subsequently, during a diplomatic meeting and accompanied by the Malaysian Foreign Minister he told a Malaysian TV team that he now understood the donation to be true:

“We are aware of the donation and it is a genuine donation with nothing expected in return. We are also fully aware that the attorney-general of Malaysia has thoroughly investigated the matter and found no wrongdoing. So, as far as we are concerned, the matter is closed,”

Nevertheless, a recent US Department of Justice indictment has confirmed the longstanding suspicion that the money in fact originated from 1MDB.

PetroSaudi’s “story” – claimed official state backing for ‘Royal’ company

Enjoying the fruits - Obaid partied with fellow Saudis on board a yacht with nude women in July - scandalising Turkish media

Enjoying the fruits – Obaid partied with fellow Saudis on board a yacht with nude women in July – scandalising Turkish media

The Saudi incorporated company PetroSaudi has, of course, played a crucial role in the diversion of much of 1MDB’s missing cash, according to the evidence.

The DOJ referred heavily to the company’s active role, during what it calls the first “Good Star Phase” of the scheme to use 1MDB to steal billions of Malaysia’s public money.

In return for a massive injection of over $300 million into the $100,000 dollar company and also kickbacks sent by Jho Low to Tarek Obaid (initially $105 million), PetroSaudi agreed to ‘act as a front’ for the siphoning out of the rest of the $1.83 billion paid by 1MDB into their ‘joint venture project’.  That money was sent to companies owned by Jho Low, principally Good Star Limited.

The DOJ indictment refers to Obaid (the CEO of PetroSaudi) as having deliberately lied to banks and officials from 1MDB by saying that Good Star belonged to PetroSaudi, thus providing a cover for the misappropriation of the cash by Najib Razak’s nominee Jho Low. In particular the court filing cites an example where Obaid signed a false statement, which assisted Jho Low in siphoning a sum of $330 million into his Good Star account, which had been meant for the joint venture:

“On or about May 12, 2011, the 1MDB-PetroSaudi JV issued to 1MDB a Notice of Drawing (the “Notice”). The Notice was signed by the PETROSAUDI CEO on behalf of the 1MDB-PetroSaudi JV and requested that 1MDB transmit $330 million to the Good Star Account.

Obaid ‘PetroSaudi CEO’ later asked for the money to be sent to Good Star, proving he knew it was not part of the joint venture to which the money was supposed to have been sent:

“On or about May 25, 2011, the PETROSAUDI CEO sent 1MDB a letter on behalf of PetroSaudi and the 1MDB-PetroSaudi JV. This letter confirmed that the account at RBS Coutts in Switzerland had received the $30 million and the $65 million wires referenced in the table above. However, the PETROSAUDI CEO requested that 1MDB send to RBS Coutts a “SWIFT CLARIFICATION” explaining that the beneficiary of these wire transfers was actually “Account No. XXX.2000” (the Good Star Account) and not “Petrosaudi International Limited.”

Separately, it has also been revealed that Tarek Obaid sent a letter in 2015 to 1MDB officials, in order to support their claim to investigators in Malaysia saying that Good Star was a subsidiary of PetroSaudi, clearly now proved a lie.

May 2015 - Tarek wishes to confirm Good Star was owned by PetroSaudi, which the DOJ confirms was a lie

May 2015 – Tarek wishes to confirm Good Star was owned by PetroSaudi, which the DOJ confirms was a lie

Quasi Sovereign’/ ‘Ultimately owned by King Abdullah’

As the Saudi authorities scrutinise this rogue behaviour by their own national, they might also be interested in understanding exactly how the directors of this ‘royally related’ company were peddling its connections on the global stage, presenting PetroSaudi as a “quasi official’ arm of the state.

Indeed, 1MDB Executive Director Casey Tang had informed his board that the company was “ultimately owned by King Abdullah”, which was a lie.

Sarawak Report has been examining documents and emails showing how PetroSaudi’s two key directors, Tarek Obaid and the British/Swiss national Patrick Mahony presented the company to prospective business partners, including former UK Prime Minister and then Middle East envoy Tony Blair.

According to a document they sent to several major companies called “PSI [PetroSaudi International] Story’ the company enjoyed unique and semi-official status, given that Obaid’s fellow shareholder was a son of then King Abdullah. “Governments have been very welcoming to PSI because they feel they are working with a quasi-sovereign entity (given that it is a vehicle of the Saudi Royal Family)”, the document explains:

“PSI’s aim is to approach nations with strong ties to Saudi Arabia and use the friendly relationship with these governments to give it access to oil and gas reserves. Governments have been very welcoming to PSI because they feel they are working with a quasi-sovereign entity (given that it is a vehicle of the Saudi Royal Family) and one that understands them. So PSI has had privileged access to many hydrocarbon regions in the world

The prospectus, which was written in 2009 goes on to brag how this tiny shell company, which as yet barely operated any oil concerns at all, could use the muscle of Saudi Arabia to protect its interests, thanks again to its ‘quasi sovereign’ role:

“…many countries will get a company in but then bully it around once it is there and has sunk billions of dollars in the ground. This will not happen with PSI because these nations do not want to get on the wrong side of the Saudi Royal Family or the Kingdom (many of these countries depend on Saudi aid, they are fellow Muslim nations, etc.). Therefore a partnership with PSI is also good protection on investments made in what can often be difficult operating environments….  Furthermore PSI has full support from the Kingdom’s diplomatic corps when entering and operating in these countries.”

Was the Saudi Arabian Government and the King aware that this seventh prince and his pals were promoting their company in such a way, boasting of guaranteed access and state support?

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With such a pitch it is easy to see why the tiny company appeared to be the ideal front for the scammers managing 1MDB, in particular Jho Low, who sought to present their deal as a ‘state to state’ venture between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Image result for jho low

PetroSaudi sent Jho Low the story pitch shortly after they agreed to partner in early September 2009.

Mahony sent Jho Low the pitch

PSI Director Mahony sent Jho Low the pitch

Likewise, time and again the directors of PetroSaudi made in plain in their dealings with other companies that their primary asset was supposed ‘unique access’ and guaranteed backing from the crown and state of Saudi Arabia.

Leveraging Royal connections – ‘Access Capitalism’

This was how directors explained their company’s role to China’s Sinochem for a JV proposal in 2009:

“PSI shall be responsible for … leveraging the royal and political connections of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia available to PSI to obtain privileged access to O&G Projects in certain regions in the world….  PSI shall continue to leverage the above mentioned connections to closely manage the politics of the projects to facilitate their smooth operations…”.

And again in July 2010 to the team of Tony Blair, who agreed to become a consultant to PSI, seeking out investors and business partners, in return for $65,000 a month (and a 2% success fee), To Tony Blair Associates PSI explained that the attraction for business partners was the opportunity “to leverage off of the shareholders of PSI’s contacts to access government contracts in infrastructure and other areas in the Kingdom

The fact that PSI was making such claims of unique access and guarantees might come as a surprise to Government and Royal officials in Saudi Arabia.  They certainly didn’t want to broadcast what they were up to – the ‘PSI Story” insisted that their prospective partners needed to “understand the sensitivities around how PSI is leveraging off of the Kingdom’s relationships“.

Yet. in a pitch for investors into Venezuela in December 2009 they elaborated further on their business model:

PSI can capitalise on the political connections of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to get  advantaged access and provide the necessary drilling services…. Venezuela will have “support” from the most important oil producer in the world – KSA.” PSI explained in a power point presentation.

Don’t say Government to Government!

Sarawak Report has already reported the extent to which PetroSaudi were deeply nervous of making any such claims in public.

Image result for jho low

Najib had attempting to make full use of the supposed official connections of PetroSaudi when he was announcing the so-called Joint Venture with 1MDB in 2009 and insisted on the involvement of Prince Turki being included in publicity.  However, Tarek’s brother Nawaf (an official with a job in the Saudi Government) anxiously warned that the press statements must remove any reference to the venture being ‘Government to Government’ in the press releases.

“You have to say it is private” cautioned Nawaf, “as the Malaysians say their company is government!”

Tarek took his brother’s hint he added three words (in bold) to the draft press release

“PSI, based in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, is a private company mandated to carry out investments which can strengthen the relationships between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and key countries worldwide.”

Meanwhile, Mahony had expressed hope that the international press would not pick up at all on the PetroSaudi 1MDB joint venture announcement, plainly because it would raise eyebrows that such a tiny company had landed such a big deal amid so much fanfare raised by Najib regarding country to country relations between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Now officials back home are fully aware of the game being played by Obaid and his PetroSaudi colleagues, as they attempted to exploit their shareholder Prince to raise billions of investment on the promise of ‘access’ in Saudi Arabia. What action they take remains to be seen.

Brother Nawaf's warning email to PetroSaudi's Tarek Obaid at the announcement of the 1MDB joint venture

Brother Nawaf’s warning email to PetroSaudi’s Tarek Obaid at the announcement of the 1MDB joint venture.

Fiscal Deficit and Fiscal Reform in Japan


September 13, 2016

Asia Pacific Bulletin

Number 351 | September 13, 2016
ANALYSIS

Fiscal Deficit and Fiscal Reform in Japan

by Taro Ohno

Over the past few decades, Japan has experienced a number of changes in its social and economic circumstances as its population has been aging, its birth rate has been falling, and its economic growth rate has been declining. These changes all affect central government finances: they encourage increased expenditures (especially with regard to social insurance benefits) and decrease tax revenues, thereby increasing the fiscal deficit.

Image result for Shintaro Abe

The key turning point for central government finance came around 1990 when the economic bubble burst, and since that time Japan has been grappling with the issue of fiscal reform. The first attempt to deal with the fiscal deficit was a set of fiscal reforms introduced in 1997, the goal of which was to reduce the deficit by 2003. However, this effort proved ineffective because of the domestic financial crisis that started in 1997. The second attempt came in 2006, when the government set a policy target that sought to shift the primary budget balance to a surplus by 2011. However, this target was deferred in 2008 as a result of the recession. The most recent attempt was the setting of a new policy target in 2010 to eliminate the deficit and create a surplus by 2020. Currently, the Abe cabinet is continuing to pursue that target. It raised the consumption tax rate to 8 percent in 2014 and will raise it to 10 percent in 2019 to achieve this goal. However, these reforms alone are insufficient.

The major contributor to the current negative fiscal situation is the increasing cost of social insurance, and given the country’s aging population, that trend will continue. The current fiscal reform will not be able to achieve its target by relying only on restraining the costs of social insurance, and so a further tax hike is unavoidable.

What kind of tax policy, then, would be most effective? In Japan, current fiscal policy over emphasizes inter-generational redistribution, which places a heavy burden on the younger generation to fund the benefits of social insurance for the elderly generation. In addition, the burden on the younger generation is already heavy due to pension insurance premiums. Therefore, because an income tax has the disadvantage of the burden falling predominantly on those who are younger, an income tax hike is not a feasible approach. What is desired is that both young and old alike bear the burden. A consumption tax has the advantage that the burden falls on all age groups, making it a more feasible approach. However, it also poses a problem. Namely, the consumption tax burden on lower-income households is heavier than that for higher-income households on a point-in-time basis, as the ratio of tax burden to income is disproportionate. A consumption tax is “regressive,” meaning that some measures for low-income households would be necessary.

A lower consumption tax burden on higher-income households exists because of their high savings rate. As a household’s ratio of savings to income increases, its ratio of consumption to income decreases. This in turn lowers the ratio of consumption tax burden to income. However, a household will spend down its savings in the future, and thus will eventually bear the consumption tax burden on that spending. In other words, savings only has the effect of changing the timing of consumption; it does not relieve the tax burden entirely. Therefore, it is also necessary to evaluate the tax burden on a lifetime basis. Based on the author’s estimates (Ohno et al. 2014), the consumption tax burden of higher-income households is heavier than that for lower-income households. This implies that the consumption tax is in fact “progressive.” This would imply that any measures for low-income households might be adequate if applied only to the younger age brackets.

The current policy debate in Japan emphasizes the results on a point-in-time basis. This leads to the conclusion that some measures need to be taken to protect low-income households. Several such measures exist as options. First is a reduced consumption tax rate for necessities, such as food. Second is a benefit given only to low-income households — for example cash benefits or an earned income tax credit. In September 2015, Japan’s Ministry of Finance proposed a plan for low-income households that included a combination of the reduced tax rate on food and a tax refund. Each individual’s consumption information would be recorded through a unified electronic card called the “My Number Card,” which is similar to a social security card in the United States. Low-income households could apply for a tax refund equal to the amount of the tax cut for food expenditures at the end of the fiscal year. The public, however, reacted negatively and criticized the plan for the complexity of the system and voiced concerns about the security of the identity card. The public prefers a reduced rate for the consumption tax on food rather than the plan proposed by the Ministry of Finance because it is a simpler system and free from worry about the security of personal information in the unified electronic card. As a result, the government decided to raise the general consumption tax rate to 10 percent while at the same time adopting a reduced tax rate for food. However, the reduced tax rate for food is not an optimally effective policy because higher-income households are benefiting as well.

“Given the current situation in Japan, where a further tax hike is unavoidable, a consumption tax hike is a better option than an income tax hike.”

Barring any sudden drastic changes in the country’s birth rate or immigration policy, Japan will continue to face daunting fiscal challenges in the years ahead, and thus finding the most effective and equitable fiscal policy should be a top priority for the Japanese government. We can conclude that a further consumption tax hike is desirable. Given the current situation in Japan, where a further tax hike is unavoidable, a consumption tax hike is a better option than an income tax hike. However, the policy debates in Japan today seem to emphasize the results only on a point-in-time basis. In designing the optimal policy, it is important to evaluate the current tax system not only on a point-in-time basis but also on a lifetime basis. Finally, the reduced consumption tax rate for food needs to be reconsidered. While the public prefers the reduced tax rate, this policy is less effective in terms of being a measure for lower-income households.

About the Author

Taro Ohno is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Economics and Law at Shinshu University, Japan. He can be reached at taro_ohno@shinshu-u.ac.jp.

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

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The tide of globalisation is turning


September 9, 2016

The tide of globalisation is turning

Trade liberalisation has stalled and one can see a steady rise in protectionist measures. 

by Martin Wolf

Image result for The Tide of Globalisation is turning

Has the tide of globalisation turned? This is a vitally important question. The answer is closely connected to the state of the world economy and the west’s politics.

Migration raises quite specific issues. The era of globalisation was not accompanied by a general commitment to liberalising flows of people. So I will focus here on trade and capital flows. The evidence in these areas seems quite clear. Globalisation has reached a plateau and, in some areas, is in reverse.

An analysis from the Peterson Institute for International Economics argues that ratios of world trade to output have been flat since 2008, making this the longest period of such stagnation since the second world war. According to Global Trade Alert, even the volume of world trade stagnated between January 2015 and March 2016, though the world economy continued to grow. The stock of cross-border financial assets peaked at 57 per cent of global output in 2007, falling to 36 per cent by 2015. Finally, inflows of foreign direct investment have remained well below the 3.3 per cent of world output attained in 2007, though the stock continues to rise, albeit slowly, relative to output.

Thus, the impetus towards further economic integration has stalled and in some respects gone into reverse. Globalisation is no longer driving world growth. If this process is indeed coming to an end, or even going into reverse, it would not be the first time since the industrial revolution, in the early 19th century. Another period of globalisation, in an era of empires, occurred in the late 19th century. The first world war ended this and the Great Depression destroyed it. A principal focus of US economic and foreign policy after 1945 was to recreate the global economy, but this time among sovereign states and guided by international economic institutions. If Donald Trump, who has embraced protectionism and denigrated global institutions, were to be elected president in November, it would be a repudiation of a central thrust of postwar US policy.

Given the historical record and the current politics of trade, notably in the US, it is natural to ask whether the same could happen to the more recent era of globalisation. That requires us to understand the drivers.

Read more:https://www.ft.com/content/87bb0eda-7364-11e6-bf48-b372cdb1043a

Obama’s unfinished business in Asia


September 8, 2016

by The Editorial Board, New York Times

Image result for Obama In Laos

President Barack Obama in Laos–Farewell Asia–Thank You, Mr. President

Laos provided fitting closure to President Obama’s 11th official trip to Asia, which ends Thursday. The stop, the first by an American president, acknowledged the devastation caused by American bombing during the Vietnam War and the millions of unexploded bombs that remained in Laos after the war. That visit and the Asian tour was the last of Mr. Obama’s broad efforts to strengthen engagements with countries in the region.

There is significant unfinished business in Mr. Obama’s Asia policy, including the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that appears gridlocked in Washington and an expanding North Korean nuclear weapons program that he and other world leaders have failed to halt.

But Mr. Obama has made headway in reassuring Asian nations that the United States intends to remain a stabilizing presence in the region, as it has been for decades, and to serve as a counterweight to China’s growing power and increasing assertiveness, especially in the South China Sea.

In addition to opening a new chapter with Laos, Mr. Obama established relations with Myanmar when the former military dictatorship of that country agreed to move toward a democratic system. Ties were expanded and an arms embargo against Vietnam was dropped. New agreements on military bases for American forces were negotiated with the Philippines and Australia.

Building on work done by the Clinton and Bush administrations, Mr. Obama has brought Indian-American relations to a new level of cooperation, culminating in last month’s defense agreement, which had been under negotiation for a decade. The United States has vastly expanded military exercises with most of these countries as well as expanding its sale of weapons, including a missile defense system to South Korea.

All of this took hard diplomatic work, but the driving force pushing these countries into closer ties with America has been China’s growing military capabilities and its brazen efforts to claim most of the South China Sea as its own, transforming reefs and rocks into artificial islands with airstrips and military structures.

When Mr. Obama took office, he hoped to cooperate with China on solving global problems. By 2011, China’s more aggressive posture and a belief that America’s economic future lay in Asia led the Obama administration to announce plans to intensify engagement with other Asian nations. As the South China Sea tensions have heated up, the administration has played a restraining role in defending America’s commitment to freedom of navigation by sending warships into that strategic waterway. It has also urged China and other claimant countries, including the Philippines and Vietnam, to work out a peaceful solution, but serious provocations by China continue.

In some instances where interests converge, China and the United States have made important contributions, including working together on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and formally committing to ratifying the Paris accord on climate change.

As he prepares to leave office, there is little expectation that Mr. Obama will be able to end the threat from North Korea, which is now estimated to have enough fissile material for as many as 21 nuclear weapons. China, the North’s main food and fuel supplier, refuses to apply the kind of pressure that might make a difference. There are other concerns about Mr. Obama’s policy, including his playing down of human rights issues in China and Laos and his willingness to sell more weapons to Asia, which risks a new arms race.

Mr. Obama and most Asian leaders believe that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, by promoting deeper economic ties with other member nations, is central to his Asia policy. And despite opposition from both presidential candidates and many lawmakers, administration officials believe they will be able to persuade Congress to approve it.

Regardless of whether that happens, China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea will increasingly dominate the future of the region and will present a complicated challenge for Mr. Obama’s successor to manage.

Hillary Clinton gets gored


September 5, 2016

by Paul Krugman

Americans of a certain age who follow politics and policy closely still have vivid memories of the 2000 election — bad memories, and not just because the man who lost the popular vote somehow ended up in office. For the campaign leading up to that end game was nightmarish too.

You see, one candidate, George W. Bush, was dishonest in a way that was unprecedented in U.S. politics. Most notably, he proposed big tax cuts for the rich while insisting, in raw denial of arithmetic, that they were targeted for the middle class. These campaign lies presaged what would happen during his administration — an administration that, let us not forget, took America to war on false pretenses.

Yet throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore — whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate — as slippery and dishonest. Mr. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false. No, he never claimed to have invented the internet. But the image stuck.

And right now I and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it’s happening again.

Image result for the clinton foundation

True, there aren’t many efforts to pretend that Donald Trump is a paragon of honesty. But it’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve. If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential. If he seems to suggest that he wouldn’t round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants right away, he’s moving into the mainstream. And many of his multiple scandals, like what appear to be clear payoffs to state attorneys general to back off investigating Trump University, get remarkably little attention.

Meanwhile, we have the presumption that anything Hillary Clinton does must be corrupt, most spectacularly illustrated by the increasingly bizarre coverage of the Clinton Foundation.

Step back for a moment, and think about what that foundation is about. When Bill Clinton left office, he was a popular, globally respected figure. What should he have done with that reputation? Raising large sums for a charity that saves the lives of poor children sounds like a pretty reasonable, virtuous course of action. And the Clinton Foundation is, by all accounts, a big force for good in the world. For example, Charity Watch, an independent watchdog, gives it an “A” rating — better than the American Red Cross.

Now, any operation that raises and spends billions of dollars creates the potential for conflicts of interest. You could imagine the Clintons using the foundation as a slush fund to reward their friends, or, alternatively, Mrs. Clinton using her positions in public office to reward donors. So it was right and appropriate to investigate the foundation’s operations to see if there were any improper quid pro quos. As reporters like to say, the sheer size of the foundation “raises questions.”

True, there aren’t many efforts to pretend that Donald Trump is a paragon of honesty. But it’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve. If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential. If he seems to suggest that he wouldn’t round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants right away, he’s moving into the mainstream. And many of his multiple scandals, like what appear to be clear payoffs to state attorneys general to back off investigating Trump University, get remarkably little attention.

Image result for the clinton foundation

Meanwhile, we have the presumption that anything Hillary Clinton does must be corrupt, most spectacularly illustrated by the increasingly bizarre coverage of the Clinton Foundation.

Step back for a moment, and think about what that foundation is about. When Bill Clinton left office, he was a popular, globally respected figure. What should he have done with that reputation? Raising large sums for a charity that saves the lives of poor children sounds like a pretty reasonable, virtuous course of action. And the Clinton Foundation is, by all accounts, a big force for good in the world. For example, Charity Watch, an independent watchdog, gives it an “A” rating — better than the American Red Cross.

Now, any operation that raises and spends billions of dollars creates the potential for conflicts of interest. You could imagine the Clintons using the foundation as a slush fund to reward their friends, or, alternatively, Mrs. Clinton using her positions in public office to reward donors. So it was right and appropriate to investigate the foundation’s operations to see if there were any improper quid pro quos. As reporters like to say, the sheer size of the foundation “raises questions.”

But nobody seems willing to accept the answers to those questions, which are, very clearly, “no.”

Consider the big Associated Press report suggesting that Mrs. Clinton’s meetings with foundation donors while secretary of state indicate “her possible ethics challenges if elected president.” Given the tone of the report, you might have expected to read about meetings with, say, brutal foreign dictators or corporate fat cats facing indictment, followed by questionable actions on their behalf.

Image result for muhammad yunus grameen bank and Bill Clinton

But the prime example The A.P. actually offered was of Mrs. Clinton meeting with Muhammad Yunus, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who also happens to be a longtime personal friend. If that was the best the investigation could come up with, there was nothing there.

So I would urge journalists to ask whether they are reporting facts or simply engaging in innuendo, and urge the public to read with a critical eye. If reports about a candidate talk about how something “raises questions,” creates “shadows,” or anything similar, be aware that these are all too often weasel words used to create the impression of wrongdoing out of thin air.

And here’s a pro tip: the best ways to judge a candidate’s character are to look at what he or she has actually done, and what policies he or she is proposing. Mr. Trump’s record of bilking students, stiffing contractors and more is a good indicator of how he’d act as president; Mrs. Clinton’s speaking style and body language aren’t. George W. Bush’s policy lies gave me a much better handle on who he was than all the up-close-and-personal reporting of 2000, and the contrast between Mr. Trump’s policy incoherence and Mrs. Clinton’s carefulness speaks volumes today.

In other words, focus on the facts. America and the world can’t afford another election tipped by innuendo.

US Foreign Policy towards Asia : Obama is pivoting alone


September 5, 2016

US Foreign Policy towards Asia : Obama is pivoting alone

by Fareed Zakaria

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/barack-obama-is-now-alone-in-washington/2016/09/01/4d2e1348-7080-11e6-9705-23e51a2f424d_story.html?

With the Asia pivot, Obama is pursuing the deepest, most enduring interests of the United States. But in doing so, he is now alone in a Washington that is increasingly awash in populism, protectionism and isolationism.–Fareed Zakaria

 

While we are consumed with the ups and downs of the bizarre U.S. presidential campaign, Barack Obama will make his last trip to Asia as President. The direct purpose of his trip to China is to attend a meeting of the Group of 20, but perhaps more importantly, the visit is intended to breathe life into one of his big ideas: the pivot to Asia. It is a genuinely important policy, but Obama is now the last man standing willing to push for it.

Foreign policy is consumed with momentary crises — often created by failing states and violent groups. But in the long run, the future is shaped by winners, not noisy losers. And when the flash points of today have passed, the rise of Asia will remain the dominant trend of our time.

The Pacific will be the arena that defines the 21st century. According to the World Bank, in just 10 years, four of the five largest economies in the world will be in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States will be able to shape the 21st century only if it remains a vital Pacific power.

How should Washington approach this region? One central task is obviously to prevent China from dominating it. That job has been made somewhat easier by Beijing’s recent expansionist moves, especially in the South China Sea. These actions illustrate the challenge China faces — it is not rising in a vacuum. Asia is a crowded continent, and every aggressive move by Beijing produces an angry reaction from neighbors such as Vietnam and the Philippines. India, which has resisted any moves that would suggest it is ganging up with the United States against China, has nonetheless moved in that direction in recent weeks. The Obama administration has also enhanced security cooperation with a range of traditional allies such as Japan, Australia and Singapore.

President Obama says he’s hopeful that once the election for the White House is over, “there will be more attention to the actual facts” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. (Reuters)

But Washington’s policy is not containment. It can’t be. China is not the Soviet Union but rather the most important trading partner for every country in Asia. The larger project, writes Kurt Campbell, who was until 2013 the State Department’s top Asia hand, in his smart book “The Pivot,” is “to strengthen Asia’s operating system — that is, the complex legal, security and practical arrangements that have underscored four decades of Asian prosperity and security.” That means bolstering freedom of navigation, free trade, multilateral groups and institutions, transparency and accountability, and such diplomatic practices as peaceful resolution of disputes.

The most vital of these right now, Campbell notes, is trade. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the sine qua non of Washington’s pivot to Asia because it works at many levels simultaneously — economic, political and strategic. It boosts growth, shores up U.S. alliances, sends a powerful signal to China and, most importantly, writes the rules of the 21st century in ways that are fundamentally American. Without it, expect China to begin drafting those rules in ways that will be very different.

And yet the TPP is under assault from every quarter in the United States. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Donald Trump flatly oppose it. Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have said that it doesn’t meet their standards anymore. What these standards are, they haven’t specified. Harvard’s Robert Lawrence has noted that for workers, the TPP’s gains far outweigh its losses.

The notion, often peddled by Trump, that the United States comes out badly in trade deals can be asserted only by someone who knows nothing about the topic. The simple reality is that the United States is the country with the largest market. As a result, it has the most leverage and — as foreign officials have often complained to me — it uses it, asking for exemptions and exceptions that few other countries get. The TPP is no different. Asian countries have made most of the concessions. And because their markets are more closed than the United States’, the deal’s net result will be to open them more.

One could argue that Sanders is speaking out of conviction, though it is strange to hear the idealistic socialist viciously denounce trade policies that have lifted hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people out of poverty. With Trump, who knows what he actually believes? The others — most importantly Clinton and Ryan — are shamelessly adopting positions that they must know are wrong. The Republican Party has now reversed itself entirely on two of its core beliefs, immigration and trade, going from a party of openness to one that wants walls and tariffs.

With the Asia pivot, Obama is pursuing the deepest, most enduring interests of the United States. But in doing so, he is now alone in a Washington that is increasingly awash in populism, protectionism and isolationism.