President Obama on Tuesday said the government shutdown had led to “missed opportunities” on the world stage and suggested China had likely welcomed his absence at two key Asian summits.
The president canceled a planned trip to Asia this week amid Washington's inability to unite behind a solution to end the government shutdown.
“I’m sure the Chinese don’t mind that I’m not there right now,” Obama said during an hour-long appearance in the White House briefing room. “There are areas where we have differences and they can present their point of view and not get as much pushback as if I were there.”
The administration has long trumpeted a so-called pivot to Asia, but Obama has been forced to cancel three trips to the continent during his presidency. Obama canceled two trips in 2010 because of the Gulf Coast oil spill and the health care debate.
And critics say the constant turmoil in the Middle East has distracted the president from his plans to focus on China, the growing economic competitor to the U.S.
World leaders had hoped to announce a new trade agreement at the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. However, Obama’s absence stifled momentum behind such a deal.
In place of Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry is representing the U.S. government in Asia this week. But the president is missing a chance to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other major world leaders.
In addressing the government shutdown Tuesday, Obama said the gridlock in Washington would have repercussions well beyond the U.S. borders.
"Whenever we do these things, it hurts our credibility around the world,” Obama said.
However, Obama added that he believed the White House and Congress would come together, limiting the blowback from their seemingly constant clashes.
“I don’t think it’s going to do lasting damage,” he predicted.