Brought together in Santiago,
Chile for the 12th Asian-Pacific Summit (APEC), twenty-one heads
of state and government applied themselves to ignoring US proposals
and to forming new commercial relations without Washington. Vladimir
Putin positioned himself as the adversary to US imperialism. Hu
Jintao successfully thwarted the US in Latin America. Meanwhile
George W. Bush, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, got into a
punch-out with Chilean police.
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  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 . 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.  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.
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. 
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. 
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. 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.
 « Nuclear Disclosures on Iran Unverified
» by Dafan Linzer, The Washington Post, 19 November 2004,
p. A1 and A17.
 Remarks gathered by Katherine Bauerle.
 « Rébellion militaire à Quito ? »
by Jorge Gomez Barata, Voltaire, 7 December 2004.
 « La responsabilité anglo-saxonne à Beslan
» by Marivilia Carrasco, Voltaire, 27 September 2004.
 « Notre ami Danilo Anderson assassiné à
Caracas » and « La CIA derrière l'assassinat
de Danilo Anderson ? » by Marcello Larrea, 19 November and
1 December 2004.
 « Bush affirme l'engagement américain en faveur
du dollar fort », AFP, 20 November 2004, 15:26.
Translated by Signs of the Times