Wenceslao: Duterte, Obama in one summit again

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte left for Lima, Peru yesterday to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders' Summit. He will again be on the world stage, this time a bigger one than the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summits held in September in Vientiane, Laos. Apec groups together 21 economies, including the world's most powerful ones like the United States and Russia. US President Barack Obama will again be there like he was in Laos.

The Asean summit featured a President Duterte who was combative before he joined the gathering, even cursing Obama for tackling the incidents of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Duterte's meeting, or non-meeting with Obama therefore became the focus of the coverage by the Philippine media in that gathering. Obama ended up deciding not to have a one-on-one talk with Duterte.

The President after that intensified his criticism of the US, especially when he visited China, the other power battling for dominance in the Pacific. He has mellowed recently, though, more so when billionaire Republican Doland Trump won the US presidential joust over the Democratic Hillary Clinton. The President is obviously in a “feeling-it-out” stage as far as Trump is concerned.

Incidentally, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the Apec summit. Putin, for some reason or another, was not in Laos and instead sent a representative, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Duterte did not hide his intention to meet with Putin, who he virtually considers as a better leader than Obama and even Trump. During his visit to China, Duterte had said that he wants to align with China and Russia. This could be his chance to be close to Putin.

There are no reports that Duterte and Obama would talk in the sidelines of the summit. This would possibly be the last gathering wherein the two would be together because the US will be represented next time by Trump. There is thus no compelling need for Duterte to talk with Obama and vice-versa. Obama would probably defer to his successor the decision on how to treat the Philippines and Duterte.

I hope the President's trip would be fruitful. Also, I hope that he would eventually pick up some diplomatese from rubbing elbows with world leaders.

***

Is globalization on the retreat? That question has been asked following Britain's exit from the European Union months ago and the recent win by Donald Trump in the United States elections. The thinking is that both Brexit and Trump's win are signals that peoples in some countries have become so wary of a globalized setup they want their countries to be protectionists.

In a recent Agence France Presse report quoting a joint article published by business magazine Wirtschaftswoche, US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote: “There will be no return to a world before globalization.” But Obama, in a speech in Greece admitted that globalization needs “course correction” because it has bred inequality that “feeds a profound sense of injustice.”

In a way, Duterte's popularity could be partly attributed to his rhetoric not necessarily against the United States, which is one of the main beneficiaries of globalization, but about charting an independent foreign policy. His win can therefore be considered part of the backlash against globalization and the global inequality it fostered. Still, Filipinos will have to make do with globalization even as their leaders should find ways to correct the inequality it has bred in the country.

(khanwens@gmail.com/ twitter: @khanwens)
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