Australian Outlook

Issues Brief

24 Apr 2014
Colin Chapman

President Barack Obama’s swing through Asia (but no stop in China) is already attracting considerable comment, some of it adverse.  Remember that last week in Issues Brief a panel from the US Studies Centre argued that prime minister Tony Abbott had set the right tone with engaging Asia. The stakes are high, and the New York Times talked about Obama having to negotiate troubled waters. Abbott scored a free trade deal with Japan – and raised hopes of one with China – but Obama’s problems with Congress at home are likely to be as great an obstacle to finalising the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as anything he encounters on his tour through Asia. As the BBC’s chief business correspondent Linda Yuel reports, trade deals don’t normally loom large at global summits but the TPP is at the forefront of Obama’s talks with Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe. Four experts tell the BBC what is at stake with the TPP.

If you’ve finished or are tired of Bob Carr’s much-hyped diaries and want some solid bedtime reading over the long weekend, there are a plethora of international reports to help you drop off to sleep. As we wait for Joe Hockey’s grim budget, the OECD wonders why we are whingeing – things are damned good in Australia, aren’t they? Certainly better than in Europe where author Phillippe Legrain finds people are disillusioned and in despair. Or middle class Americans who have discovered they are no longer the world’s richest.

But not everything is top of the pops in Australia. We don’t even make it into the world’s top ten for IT, for instance. The World Economic Forum has produced a mighty tome for insomniacs on the risks and rewards of big data. If that’s not your bag, you could consider the environmental performance review of 80 countries conducted by the OECD.

Still, studying hardly never hurt anyone, did it? Certainly not a Sydney great-grandmother, aged 93, who has just been awarded her doctorate for her work on the Great Depression and the Global Financial Crisis.

Finally the latest Foreign Affairs has an interesting article on what Iran wants.