By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Nov. 7 – In a CBS 60 Minutes interview aired Sunday evening, President Obama acknowledged that he'd “slipped” into using combative rhetoric during the run-up to the mid-term elections. But he said he looks forward to working with Republicans now that the “humbling” elections are over – and now that Republicans will control the House and be in a strengthened position in the Senate.

The problem with Obama's plan to find “common ground” is that it's clear Republicans are already focused on evicting Obama from the White House in 2012 – and clear that the Democrats are hard at work to win back voter support. For both parties, internal battles will continue this week to decide House leadership positions. These decisions will affect whether next year will bring bipartisanship – or more gridlock if Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wins her fight to be minority leader in the new Congress and if Tea Party champion Michele Bachmann (R-MN) succeeds in her bid for a leadership slot.

In the wake of the Republicans' impressive elections gains, President Obama left Friday for a 10-day bridge-building, trade-promoting trip to Asia. Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are in India now, focused on boosting U.S. agricultural exports to India, global food security, and discussing India's remarkable success in using agricultural development policies to spur overall economic growth. Addressing the economic and job concerns which played such a central role in the elections, the Indian visit has included announcing major job-creating Indian purchases of U.S. aircraft.

Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes explains that since Asia has the world's fastest growing markets, the President's trip is aimed at “expanding exports for U.S. goods, deepening partnerships in this important part of the world, partnering together in the G20 and other forums . . . if you look at the United States economy and where we’re going to have to export our goods and create jobs and deepen our partnerships, it’s very much in Asia.” He says Asia's growing markets “are going to be fundamental to our export initiative of doubling exports.”

Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Mike Froman adds that with India “expected to grow at 8% a year for the next several years, we really see India as a potentially very important market for U.S. exports.”

The White House also stresses that the Asia trip will take the President to four thriving democracies – India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan – which prove that democracy is a formula for prosperity not only in the West but in Asia as well. The message is that democracy has more to offer than the tightly controlled Chinese model.

With his next stop in Indonesia, President Obama will highlight “cooperation with the Indonesians on climate change, where Indonesia has been a leader in the developing world . . . taking a very aggressive position on curtailment of emissions.”

Next, it's on to South Korea for the G20 meeting focused on currency, trade issues, renewable energy, and “the phasing out of certain kinds of fossil fuel subsidies.” Obama, joined in Seoul by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, also hopes to finally wrap up discussions on the long-stalled U.S./South Korea Free Trade Agreement. Meanwhile, President Obama will hold his seventh bilateral meeting with China's President Hu Jintao to “work together to assure the global economy recovers on a balanced and sustainable basis” and discuss trade issues. Among the G20 topics:

Finally, the trip will conclude in Japan for the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, with more focus on “our aggressive efforts to increase our economic engagement and our exports in Asia.” There will also be time for Obama's first bilateral meeting with Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister Gillard and a bilateral meeting with Russia's President Medvedev.

If Obama is able to return from his Asia trips with lots of new export orders in hand and the prospect of more if Congress passes the the South Korea, Colombia and Panama free trade agreements, he'll be able to make a stronger case that his administration is focused on boosting job-generating exports. Note that along with this week's talks in Seoul on the Korean FTA, there will be talks in Washington Tuesday on the Colombian FTA.

Fresh back from India, Sec. Vilsack should have plenty of good talking points for his Kansas City press conference Thursday at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting’s annual “Trade Talk,” the centerpiece event of the NAFB’s Annual Convention.

USDA’s Economic Research Service & National Agricultural Statistics Service reports:

  • Monday, November 8, Crop Progress

  • Tuesday, November 9, World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, Season-Average Price Forecasts, Cotton Ginnings, Crop Production, Weather-Crop Summary

  • Wednesday November 10, Latest U.S. Agricultural Trade Data, Oil Crops Outlook, Rice Outlook, Broiler Hatchery

  • Thursday, November 11, Veterans Day Holiday

  • Friday, November 12, Feed Outlook, Wheat Outlook, Livestock and Meat Trade Data, U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update, Dairy Products Prices, Peanut Prices

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