SYDNEY, Australia - President Clinton arrived here early this morning to begin a nine-day visit along the Pacific Rim that will focus on bringing down trade barriers and demonstrating the U.S. commitment to Asia.
"It's significant, I think, that President Clinton's first foreign trip following his re-election, just like his first foreign trip as president, takes him to the Asia-Pacific region," said Deputy National Security Adviser Sandy Berger.
In Australia, the president will meet with the new Liberal Party prime minister, John Howard, and address a joint session of Parliament in Canberra early tomorrow.
The heart of the trip, however, is Sunday's meeting in Manila of the leaders of the 18-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, a body that Mr. Clinton has tried to elevate in importance but whose meeting he missed last year because of the federal government shutdown.
The United States hopes that the APEC leaders, meeting on the former massive U.S. naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines, will give their assent to an international agreement that would end tariffs on many kinds of information technology, such as software. That could improve the agreement's chances of being ratified at a meeting of the World Trade Organization next month.
The APEC leaders also are expected to renew their pledge to eliminate trade barriers by the year 2010.
While in Manila, Mr. Clinton will hold his fourth meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin amid speculation that he and Mr. Zemin will agree to exchange visits, which would be a major boost for U.S.-Sino relations. Secretary of State Warren Christopher will visit Beijing for talks prior to the meeting in the Philippines.
Mr. Clinton also meets with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and South Korean President Kim Young-Sam, the latter amid signs of disagreement between Seoul and Washington over how to deal with North Korea in the aftermath of its spying incursion into the South via submarine. …