Obama meets with Calderon, Kan and Gillard, attends leaders retreat on final leg of Asia tour Saturday.
Final Pool Report:
Your pool wishes that the final pool report could be rich with excitement to justify the last two hours, but alas, pool reports must be truthful. The pool waited its turn as each delegation of photographers snapped pictures of Japanese Prime Minister Kan greeting successive heads of state before the APEC cultural program. At 7:38 p.m., Potus entered the hallway and approached the prime minister and his wife before a yellow and orange backdrop. He lowered his head politely as the first lady of Japan bowed to him.
The pool was then ushered to a new hallway outside an auditorium while the heads of state were watching Kabuki Theater. The sounds of drums and strings could be heard but not seen. Pool was then rushed in for the group photo. The heads of state were arrayed in a single line in front of a painted tree that looked like a spreading, huge banzai. Other APEC’s have featured colorful or crazy clothing at this event. This year, heads of state were business casual, basically the same suits they’d been wearing all day but without ties. Tieless Potus was in the middle, chatting with the Sultan of Brunei on his left, Mr. Kan on his right.
After photos were taken, the leaders walked up the theater’s aisle. Potus chatted with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
The statement on Aung San Suu Kyi was released.
We have a lid.
Pool Report from the Leaders Retreat:
At 1:45 p.m., a tight pool of four photogs and a print pooler was brought into the leaders’ retreat, an elaborate bamboo forest arrayed around Japanese gravel, stone paths and a Koi pond. The bamboo was real. The Koi pond was not. HD panels were arrayed on the floor with virtual fish darting around. A bamboo well appeared to tip water into the fake pond, startling the fake fish, which scattered in fake terror.
Each of the 21 leaders had a comfortable, big leather and wood chair with a modern Asian feel and a stone path leading from each through the gravel to the virtual pond.
At 1:51 p.m., the leaders started tricking in, first from Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and Chinese Taipei, then Mexico, Thailand and the Philippines. The Thai prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, pulled out his iPad.
Potus walked in to a barrage of flashes and a number of handshakes. Your pool was inches from him, so here are the conversations in earshot.
The Vietnamese head of state leaned in and said, “I hope you will come to Vietnam.”
Potus: “We’ll try to make that happen. It’s a beautiful country. We’ll try to make that happen. … Well, you need to come visit the United States.”
Potus turned to the Thai leader to his right.
“So you like your iPad?”
The Thai leader nodded and asked if Potus had one.
“You know, I bought one for my wife. But these days mostly I have someone carrying my books. So that’s my iPad.” Potus must have understood the iReggie joke would not have translated.
The Papua New Guinea representative walked across the gravel expanse to greet Potus and invite him to his country.
“The prime minister sends his best wishes,” he said.
Dmitry Medvedev than came in, and Potus stood to greet him with a big hug and some chit chat.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper approached the virtual Koi pond, prompting Potus to shout, “Stephen, don’t fall in.”
Harper: “It’s fake goldfish.”
Potus: “It’s all video. It’s fascinating.”
Harper: “There’s got to be a political story in here somehow.”
The Thai leader broke in again and asked, “How was your visit to Indonesia?”
Potus: “It was wonderful. We started in India. We wanted to stay longer but the plume of the volcano was coming. But it was nice.”
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak came in and made the rounds, taking in a lot of congratulations.
As pool was ushered out, photog Doug Mills and your pooler both leaned in to thank Potus.
“We’re trying to be more polite,” pooler said, riffing on the exchange with the press from the Gillard bilat.
Then from a slight distance, photog Tim Sloan shouted, “Thank you, Mr. President,” to which Potus said, “Now, don’t overdo it.”
Pool was then ushered out.
Pool Report #3:
US and Australian pool were crammed in to a small room where we could barely see the principles. Potus was on one side of a conference table flanked by Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs on his right, Tom Donilon and others not visible on his left. Australian Prime Minister Gillard and her entourage sat across the table.
Potus opened saying “the United States does not have a closer or better ally than Australia.”
He said the countries will “work for ways that we can expand trade.” They discussed Afghanistan and Australia’s contribution to the war effort. He said he is “just grateful to have this opportunity to speak to the prime minister.”
He also said he had extended her an invitation to visit.
“I look forward to seeing you in Washington.”
“Our two countries are great mates, to use Australian terminology.”
She said she passed on her nation’s condolences to the US for its losses in Afghanistan.
“We are on the same page on trade,” she said, talking up the Trans Pacific Partnership.
As pool filed out, a reporter said, “Thank you, Mr. President.”
Someone told Potus it was an Australian.
“I knew it must have been an Australian because my folks never say thank you.”
At that, the entire American pool said in unison, admittedly with a bit of sarcasm, “Thank you, Mr. President.”
PM Gillard could be heard chiming in, “There are a few cheeky Australians here.”
Pool was then ushered to the hotel lobby to watch Japanese Prime Minister Kan shake hands in this order: Medvedev, Hu, Harper and Obama. We are now taking a break.
Pool Report #2:
Rolled out at 10 am to InterContinental for Bilat with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
Pool arrived at the underground parking lair in 2 minutes. We emerged at the National Conference Center attached to the InterContinental where pool held for 40 minutes.
We were ushered in at 11:05 to a windowless room with an American and Japanese flag, separated by a modern, stylish painting in black and white of a waterfall plunging into a black pool of water.
The leaders entered at 11:32, Potus on left PMOJ (prime minister of Japan) on right.
Kan, through a translator, said “in Japanese relations with Russia, we’ve had some problems,” a reference to Dmitry Medvedev’s recent visit to disputed territory. He said “the US has supported Japan throughout” and he expressed his gratitude.
In contrast to the tone of last year’s visit, Kan said “the US military presence is only becoming more important.” And he said following elections on Okinawa he will make his “utmost efforts” to implement the joint US-Japan agreement for the island.
“On the economic front” he said, “Japan is steering itself significantly toward opening itself up.” He pledged to “get down to consultations” on the Trans Pacific Partnership, the promised free trade zone of the Pacific rim.
He said he had accepted Potus’ invitation to visit Washington in the spring, and he wished Potus an enjoyable visit to the Buddha at Kamakura “to enjoy his good old memories.”
Potus then spoke, to “send the warm regards of the American people.” He called the US-Japan relationship “the foundation of our security and our prosperity” and said “we are deepening our economic relationship,” mentioning an open skies agreement that goes into effect today.
In the wake of his endorsement of a permanent seat for India on the UN Security Council, Potus “reiterated our longstanding view that Japan is the model of the kind of country we would like to see as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.”
The two men shook hands, posed for pictures and left at 11:45. Potus ignored a shouted question about his tone as economic competitor.
We are not waiting for spray of US-Australian bilat.
Pool report #1:
Pool left at 8:30 am for a long, lovely walk through an epic mall in Yokohama, past a Christmas tree, a Sizzler, and a Starbucks to the APEC CEO Summit.
We entered a vast, standard-issue ballroom as Mexican President Felipe Calderon was speaking. He gave way to a Japanese executive, but we had no translation. The general topic was green technology, energy efficiency and climate change.
As Potus stood offstage, the moderator tried to hustle Mr. Calderon along as he spoke of his hopes for the upcoming climate summit in Cancun, saying “There are more important,” then correcting himself, “other important” speakers in wait. Much laughter at poor Mr. Calderon”s expense.
Potus walked on stage to warm applause at 9:44 am, Japan time. Stuck to the speech and prompters. We’re on the move.