Obama Makes a Comeback to Meet Indian, Chinese Leaders on Tour
Now a private citizen, former President Barack Obama re-emerged on the global stage on 28 November as he opened a three-country tour that includes meetings with the leaders of China and India, just as President Donald Trump courts those same world powers.
During a five-day trip, Obama will mix paid speeches with foreign leader meetings and even a town hall event for young people, the signature event that Obama became known for around the world during his eight years in office. He’ll finish the tour in France, where he’ll give one of several speeches planned during the trip.
Trump Makes This Obama Trip Significant
But Obama's trip may garner particular attention, given that many foreign countries are still uncertain about Trump's foreign policy and may look to his predecessor to help explain America's current direction.
Barack Obama is the great explainer to the rest of the world of what the heck is going on in America. He’s a calming influence in a world that’s teetering on frenzy right now. Obama arrives and it reminds them of old-style diplomacy and the dignity of statesmanship.Douglas Brinkley, Presidential Historian, Rice University
Obama arrived on 28 November in Shanghai, where he was to speak at a business conference before traveling to Beijing to speak at an education event. He also planned to meet there with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who hosted Trump for a high-profile visit only a few weeks earlier. Obama's office said they planned to discuss the global economy, climate change and other issues.
Then the former president is off to India, where he’ll meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, give another speech and hold a town hall meeting hosted by Obama’s foundation.
Obama will give a final speech on 25 November in Paris before returning to the United States. Aides didn't rule out the possibility that he could also see President Emmanuel Macron, whose presidential campaign Obama endorsed, while in France.
Aides to the former president declined to say who was paying for the trip, but he'll be compensated for the speeches.
The trip comes as Trump is aggressively pushing China's leaders to cut off North Korea economically over its nuclear weapons program. Obama will also be in India just days after Trump's daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump. The first daughter gave a speech on 28 November at a business conference that was widely disseminated on Indian television.
Since taking office, Trump has reversed much of Obama’s foreign policy approach, including pulling out of a global climate change agreement that was forged after the US and China teamed up on the issue. Trump has also irked France and other European allies by taking steps to undermine the nuclear deal that the US and world powers struck with Iran in 2015.
The Travel Bug
An Obama aide wouldn't say whether the former president or his staff had contacted Trump's White House ahead of the trip, but said that Obama's staff had reached out to the US embassies in each country. The aide wasn't authorised to comment by name and requested anonymity. Former presidents retain Secret Service protection, so there's at least some US government involvement in facilitating the trip.
Obama isn't the first ex-president to get the itch to travel after losing access to Air Force One.
By the time President Bill Clinton was out of office for four months, he'd already visited 10 countries, including China and India. Though then-President George W Bush had adopted a far different foreign policy, Clinton was careful on the road not to criticise his successor directly.
President Jimmy Carter was sometimes criticised for overstepping his role as ex-president during his extensive overseas travels in the years after he left the Oval Office.
In the years after World War II, former President Herbert Hoover traveled prolifically, helping secure food supplies for Europeans in need. Theodore Roosevelt gave a famous "Man in the Arena" speech at the Sorbonne in Paris as an ex-president.
(This article has been published in arrangement with AP.)
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