While President Obama was forced to remain in Washington so he could make periodic announcements that, like General Franco, he is still not negotiating, the meeting of the heads of state of the Trans-Pacific Partnership proceeded in Bali, Indonesia without him. Today a “senior administration official” on the trip held a special background briefing, telling reporters about the “very productive” TPP meeting. The SAO reported that:
“You had virtually all the leaders there. President Humala had to leave early and the Sultan of Brunei had to leave early. But otherwise you had all the leaders there. Secretary Kerry served as the head of – took the President’s place and played a very important role in the meeting both in terms of presenting the U.S. perspective but also in helping to lead the discussion with Prime Minister Key of New Zealand. … [W]e’ve been making a lot of progress … we’ve really been moving the ball forward …”
That produced this colloquy, regarding the impact of the absence of the U.S. president:
QUESTION: How much of the meeting today – I mean, do you think anything was lacking because the President wasn’t there? … [W]ould you have made more progress on something if the President had been there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Certainly it was regrettable that he wasn’t able to be there, and – but we were very fortunate to have Secretary Kerry serving in his place. And I think we were able to maintain the momentum of this last week’s set of meetings, together with the other leaders who are similarly focused on doing so, as we are.
In other words, no.