The 12th Summit of the economic leaders of the Asian-Pacific zone brought together 21 delegations in Santiago, Chile, November 20 and 21, 2004. This big circus, in itself without interest, was the occasion for numerous chiefs of state and government to multiply bilateral discussions and justify stopovers in all directions coming and going from the conference. The conference was preceded by a surprising and little publicized international trade show on Homeland Security in Honolulu from November 14 to 17, which doubled as a symposium for chiefs of Asian-Pacific multinationals (APEC Business Advisory Council - ABAC). If none of the meetings were important in themselves, the general mixing up of heads of state shook up the equilibrium of regional diplomacy.

The second Asian-Pacific Homeland Security trade show offered Tom Ridge, director of Homeland Security for the US, a tribune to present the new US-VISIT program which handles biometric surveillance of its borders. The Bush Administration had wanted to sell the initiative to many of the states and to share with them the information collected. The only taker was the already committed delegation from Taiwan, headed by the Minister of the Interior Su Jia-chyuan. The other states were content to acquire the material necessary to make their passports conform to the new US requirements but have no plans to similarly equip their borders.

The Santiago Summit was to have "dynamised the liberalization of world trade" (veritable cliché of any diplomatic summit), "struggled against nuclear proliferation" (that is, put North Korea alone on trial) and "reinforce the war against terrorism" (more precisely, cut off the arming of the Iraqi resistance). It could have also celebrated the new four-year mandate of George W. Bush.

The heads of the multinationals spontaneously prepared for the delegates a motion which had as its aim the creation of an Asian-Pacific Free Trade Zone. The text was drawn up by Hernán Somerville, boss of the Chilean bosses and as such, this year’s chairman of ABAC. It was hardly difficult to see the hand of White House Economic Counsellor, Robert Zoellick, behind this initiative. Zoellick has pushed identical motions at all regional conferences, no matter where they have been held. Washington’s objective is to renegotiate the liberalisation of trade by splitting up the partners rather than passing by the WTO where they form blocks. However, the manipulation was a little too apparent and predictable. The heads of state politely offered their congratulations for this contribution in order to better push it aside.

Even prior to the official opening of the summit, President Bush had declared to the press that the participating states shared the same preoccupation with the development of nuclear arms by North Korea and Iran. On November 17, Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated that he had «seen certain information suggesting that they [the Iranians] were working actively on delivery systems [for nuclear warheads]». But on November 19, the Washington Post [1] revealed that these accusations, supposedly supported by intelligence reports, were without any basis. November 20, Mr. Powell repeated his accusations in an interview with El Mercurio [2] But the next day, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergeï Lavrov buried the subject by declaring to the press that Russia had no information that went in this direction and that Mr. Bush was careful not to discuss the question during his meeting with Mr. Putin.

Concerning the struggle against terrorism, George W. Bush didn’t miss the chance, as with every summit since September 11, 2001, to condemn the transnational character of this threat and to invite the international community to support the efforts of the United States to wage this "war". Normally, the delegations that are trying to win favour with Washington pick up the chorus of this type of speech while the others content themselves with a word of compassion. This time it was different. Three days earlier in Quito the Latin-American states had just refused Rumsfeld’s offer to integrate their armies under the command of the United States in the war on terrorism. [3] They were thus little inclined to read their lines from Bush’s script. Worse, Vladimir Putin launched into a long tirade against States that support terrorism by underlining that the attack in Beslan had nothing to do with the question of Chechnya but was sponsored from outside of Russia [4]. Far from sympathizing with the difficulties of the US, he suggested in thinly veiled words that the US was itself a terrorist state, an allusion all the easier for Latin American states to understand as the CIA is suspected of having restarted their program of assassinations and, notably, of having killed Venezuela’s Procurer General two days earlier. [5]

Pulling the blanket in another direction, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin pushed for the recognition of the "Responsibility to Protect" oppressed populations, as well as his project for a forum of 20 leaders to resolve, among themselves, questions of sanitary security (SARS, bird flu).

Finally, there was even one of Washington’s allies who underlined that US leadership in the struggle against terrorism would be more credible if the State Department first resolved one of the causes of terrorism that it has long allowed to degenerate: the Israeli-Palestianian conflict. If this blow was expected, to general surprise it was delivered by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, followed immediately by Indonesian President Susilo Barnbang Yudhoyono and Malasian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
To sum up, neo-conservative rhetoric is too worn out to continue to surprise, and each state is now opposing it with systematic responses.

The Solitude of George W. Bush

Even if monetary questions were not on the agenda, they haunted the summit. The yuan is still not convertible and its weak value favours Chinese exports towards the US to such an extent that US stores now sell more Chinese than US products. Canada has asked the IMF to calculate whether or not the yuan is undervalued, which could be considered as a form of disguised export subsidy.

In reality, the yuan has been more or less fixed to the dollar since 1994. The Chinese delegation turned the problem on its head: all the while committing itself to making the yuan convertible, China demanded that the US stop the fall of the dollar (down 35% vis-à-vis the euro since the arrival of George W. Bush in the White House). Moreover, the US economy would collapse if China were not supporting the dollar by buying US Treasury Bonds. This is where the shoe pinches: the US economy is in full rout, public accounting is notoriously fixed in such a way that it is difficult to judge the size of the problem; but everyone knows that the colossus with feet of clay could crumble at any moment, taking dependent economies with it, first Japan, then partially the European Union. Furthermore, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koïzimi was particularly worried coming out from his November 20 meeting with George W. Bush: the President of the US told him with a straight face that his administration is committed to keeping the dollar strong. At that moment, the dollar was valued at 102.70 yen, its lowest level since April 2000. [6]

Definitively, the APEC Summit didn’t accomplish much. Mr. Bush, who arrived with high hopes, left not only with nothing positive, but in fact, with much to the contrary. Enraged, he finally lost his cool. For a dinner at the Mapocho Station Cultural Centre, Chile’s secret service was only allowing a limited number of body guards per person to enter. Therefore they turned away a part of Mr. Bush’s escort. Returning to the entrance, Bush demanded that all of those accompanying him be permitted to enter. Words were exchanged. Suddenly, the President of the United States of America attacked the Chilean police, exchanging punches with them. Shortly after, it was announced that the gala supper, offered to 400 guests by Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, had been cancelled to avoid another scuffle.

Far from calming spirits, Mrs Bush then decided to visit the house of poet and communist leader Pablo Neruda, who died in 1973, twelve days after the overthrowing of democracy by the CIA, the death of his friend Salvador Allende, and the installation of the junta of Augusto Pinochet. This visit was an infamous provocation for Chileans at the moment when an independent commission had just established responsibility for the crimes of the dictatorship.

The World is Larger Than the US

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi profited from the summit by signing a commercial treaty with Chile. Tokyo wishes to use Santiago as a springboard into the South American continent. An agreement for reciprocal economic support was also signed with Indonesia. However, Mr. Koizumi failed to improve relations with his main neighbours. Fifty-nine years after Japan’s surrender, Tokyo has still not made peace with either Russia or China and continues to have important border differences with them both. Moreover, Tokyo is competing with Beijing for access to Russian energy riches. The difficult relations between the two countries degraded this year when Mr. Koizumi insulted all of the Pacific peoples by attending a memorial ceremony in honour of Japanese war criminals from the Second World War. Chinese President Hu Jintao informally informed Japan during the summit that another such official participation in the ceremony in 2005 would be very badly interpreted by the region. As a peace-making gesture, Mr. Koizumi declared that his country had no intention of going to war against China.

Upon arriving in Santiago, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin was welcomed by his Chilean opposite, Ricardo Lagos. Together they paid homage to the memory of Salvador Allenda in front of Moneda Palace, one way among others of recalling the long Russo-Chilean friendship that contrasts so clearly with US crimes in the country. After having concluded numerous accords with Chile, Mr. Putin offered himself a "frank" conversation with his US opposite, George W. Bush. If Putin accepted to renounce 80% of the Iraqi debt, this would only come as an exchange for some progress in the dossier of Russian membership in the WTO. Nothing else emerged from this one on one that was shortened after an exchange of friendly comments about "the return of Russian centralism" and "foreign interference in the Ukraine". On his way back from the conference, Vladimir Putin stopped over in Brazil and then in La Haye to meet with the European Commission. Just enough time to verify that the list of contentious issues with the Commission President, the very Atlanticist Jose Manuel Barroso, is the same as those with Mr. Bush.

The Russian President presented a determined and systematic opposition to the United States. As if, persuaded that the world is facing a Second Cold War, he is presenting himself as the champion of the "Nyet!", the natural alternative to the bellicose US.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun multiplied his stopovers on his way to APEC. He stopped in Los Angeles to give a speech to the World Affairs Council. To the surprise and indignation of the United Staters, he explained that the demands of the North Koreans in nuclear matters were justified by the military threat that Washington held over Pyongyang. Then, he went to Argentina and Brazil to negotiate a commercial agreement with Mercosur, of which these two countries are the leaders.

On his way to APEC, Chinese President Hu Jintao stopped over briefly in Portugal in order to have the Lusitanian world opened to him by Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopez. Equipped with these recommendations, he went on to Brazil to meet with President Lula da Silva. The two countries already have important commercial relations and a common satellite programme.

Chilean President
Ricardo Lagos

In Argentina, the Chinese President signed five agreements with his opposite, Nestor Kirchner, instantly increasing commercial exchanges between the two countries by 122%. Other than that, during the summit, Hu Jintao signed several agreements with Ricardo Lagos, agreements which were also for considerable amounts. Even more spectacular was the stopover on his return flight to hail his Cuban opposite Fidel Castro and his brother Raul who will succeed him. The two countries claim to be socialist, however, during the last few years, China has invented a hybrid system of national capitalism. China is, with Russia, the principal partner in aiding Cuba to overcome the economic embargo of the United States and its allies. We were thus treated to several bizarre speeches where the word «socialism» referred mostly to the friendship between the two peoples rather than to any precise economic ideas.

This Chinese breakthrough in Latin America, coming after its alliance with Iran, marks a complete change in foreign policy. Pushed by its need for energy, Beijing is looking for suppliers of hydrocarbons. But, conscious of the vulnerability of these relations, Hu Jintao initiated a vast deployment on the international chessboard that brings China into play in areas heretofore reserved for the United States in violation of the "Monroe Doctrine".

The results of all this commotion can be resumed thusly: as predicted, the summit itself accomplished nothing. George W. Bush, who had just been declared the victor in his country’s elections, did not receive the congratulations he expected, but rather had to suffer a series of rebuffs: the heads of state and government that he helped to bring together used this occasion to look for and to sometimes find new partners that will permit them to escape from the protection racket run by Washington. In the Asian Pacific, they don’t believe that the US is the hyper-power that dominates the world and they’d like to do business without it.

Translated by Signs of the Times

[1« Nuclear Disclosures on Iran Unverified » by Dafan Linzer, The Washington Post, 19 November 2004, p. A1 and A17.

[2Remarks gathered by Katherine Bauerle.

[3« Rébellion militaire à Quito ? » by Jorge Gomez Barata, Voltaire, 7 December 2004.

[4« La responsabilité anglo-saxonne à Beslan » by Marivilia Carrasco, Voltaire, 27 September 2004.

[5« Notre ami Danilo Anderson assassiné à Caracas » et « La CIA derrière l’assassinat de Danilo Anderson ? » par Marcello Larrea, 19 novembre et 1er décembre 2004.

[6« Bush affirme l’engagement américain en faveur du dollar fort », AFP, november 20 2004.