In its fifth day on Saturday, the U.S. government shutdown could hurt the country’s standing internationally, but the ongoing tug-of-war between the House of Representatives and the Senate in Washington should not be mistaken “as anything more than a moment of politics,” Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday.
Kerry is leading the U.S. delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, summit scheduled for Oct. 7-8 on the Indonesian island of Bali, after President Barack Obama canceled his plan to attend the meeting in the wake of the government shutdown.
Already in Indonesia, Kerry said Washington’s commitment to Asia remains undiminished. “When we get this moment of political silliness behind us, we will get back on a track the world will respect and want to be part of,” the secretary of state said at a news conference, according to the Associated Press. “To all of our friends and foes around the world: Do not mistake this momentary episode in American politics for anything less than a moment of politics or anything more than a moment of politics,” he said.
However, Kerry added that the shutdown may have caused impediments in U.S. security assistance to allies such as Israel, while the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, responsible for enforcing sanctions on Iran, had been more or less inactive since the shutdown began. “Note, our ability to do that -- to enforce sanctions, to stop sanction evaders -- is being hampered significantly by the shutdown,” Wendy Sherman, the under secretary of state for political affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.
Kerry dismissed criticism of Obama for canceling his weeklong trip to four nations in Asia, saying, “There isn’t one leader here [at the APEC summit] who wouldn’t make the same decision if they had to the deal with a domestic challenge.”
Obama had planned to visit Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as Indonesia, where the APEC summit talks are expected to focus on carving out the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP -- one of the most ambitious free-trade agreements currently being negotiated among the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.