Obama’s Asian pivot faces uncertain fate


As US President-elect Donald Trump continues to stir up a hornet’s nest in Washington and elsewhere in America, the outgoing and lame-duck presidency of Barack Obama looks spent, its foreign policy agenda at risk of reversal and dismantlement. This is a pity because Mr Obama had his heart in the right places. He tried to make the world a better place but ultimately fell short.

Mr Obama will go down in history as the most “Asianised” American president the world is likely to see, attuned to the grievances and aspirations of Asian countries, especially those in Southeast Asia, where he spent significant time during his formative years. Not again for as many years as we can imagine will the United States elect a black president, due to its racially raw and politically polarised society. Mr Obama is also setting himself up to be the most politically active former US president whom Americans will likely see in the contemporary period.

Already the two-term president has been challenging President-elect Donald Trump’s principles and values. In the final stretches of Hillary Clinton’s defeated candidacy, Mr Obama and Michelle Obama made stump speeches in an all-out effort to deny a Trump victory. As Mr Obama reportedly plans to reside in the Washington area, he will not be far from Mr Trump’s environs, both at the White House in the US capital and on 5th Avenue in New York’s Manhattan where Trump Tower is located.

Mr Obama will continue to challenge the Trump agenda even after presidential retirement because the two hold different values and see America’s interests in fundamentally divergent ways. Mr Trump has shown signs of economic nationalism and favouring an inward-looking society.