SEOUL, South Korea — President Barack Obama’s hopes of emerging from his Asia trip with the twin victories of a free trade agreement with South Korea and a unified approach to spurring global economic growth ran into resistance on all fronts Thursday, putting Obama at odds with his key allies and largest trading partners.
The most concrete trophy expected to emerge from the trip eluded his grasp: a long-delayed free trade agreement with South Korea, first negotiated by the Bush administration and then reopened by Obama, to have greater protections for U.S. workers.
And as officials frenetically tried to paper over differences among the Group of 20 members with a vaguely worded communique to be issued Friday, there was no way to avoid discussion of the fundamental differences of economic strategy. After five largely harmonious meetings in the past two years to deal with the most severe downturn since the Depression, major disputes broke out between Washington and China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.
Each rejected core elements of Obama’s strategy of stimulating growth before focusing on deficit reduction. Several major nations continued to accuse the Federal Reserve of deliberately devaluing the dollar last week in an effort to put the costs of America’s competitive troubles on trading partners, rather than taking politically tough measures to rein in spending at home.