Forget Europe. The PacRim is where it's at. So said President Barack Obama this week while meeting with leaders of the 21-economy Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Hawaii.
The president called the region, which is home to some 3 billion people, absolutely critical to America's growth. "We consider it a top priority," Obama said in his speech posted on the White House website. "And we consider it a top priority because we're not going to be able to put our folks back to work and grow our economy and expand opportunity unless the Asia Pacific region is also successful."
In his speech, President Obama said the Asia Pacific region includes many of "our top trading partners. It's where the U.S. does most of its trade and where the U.S. sells most of its exports. It's also the fastest growing region in the world, he said. "And as a consequence, the Asia Pacific region is key to achieving my goal of doubling U.S. exports and creating new jobs," President Obama said.
And the ultimate goal, he said, is to create a seamless regional economy, with a particular focus on increasing trade and investment, promoting green jobs, and streamlining and coordinating regulations encourage trade and job creation.
Check out the APEC site for more information on the organization.
Given all that, we couldn't help but ask the question: What's the investment angle to all this rhetoric? What opportunities might exist in the Asia Pacific region?
For his part, Bob Brinker, the editor and publisher of the Fixed Income Advisor newsletter, suggests that there are several ways to take advantage of the fixed-income opportunities that might arise.
If you can wait till 2012, he said Vanguard plans to introduce two international bond index funds, the Vanguard Total International Bond Index fund and Vanguard Emerging Markets Government Bond Index fund.
The Vanguard Total International Bond Index fund will track the Barclays Global Aggregate ex-USD Float Adjusted Index (Hedged), an index that comprises more than 7,000 global government, agency, and corporate securities in 57 countries in Asia, Europe, Canada and South America.
The Vanguard Emerging Markets Government Bond Index Fund will seek to track the investment performance of the Barclays Emerging Markets Sovereign Index. The target benchmark features approximately 200 government bonds in 39 countries. By investing solely in U.S. dollar denominated international bonds, the fund will not subject U.S.-based investors to currency risk.
Brinker also mentioned the T. Rowe Price International Bond Fund as another possibility, though the analysts at Morningstar favor two other funds in that category: the Loomis Sayles Global Bond Retail and the Templeton Global Bond A.
In addition, Brinker said there's one other international emerging markets ETF that could benefit from the all the attention on the PacRim. That would be the iShares JPMorgan USD Emerging Markets Bond (EMB)
In his speech, President Obama suggested that he also wanted to boost exports to Pacific Rim countries. And should that happen, Brinker said, there's at least two firms that stand to benefit, Ford Motor Co. (F)
Others also think the opportunities not so much in the Pacific Rim, but here in the U.S., provided of course that China starts acting, as President Obama said, like a "grown-up" with regard to its currency.
"I also think one way that China can tackle its currency issue is by allowing the yuan to float more aggressively, which would help our industrial base through exports," said Doug MacKay, a CFA charterholder, chief executive officer and chief Investment officer of Broadleaf Partners. "In this sense, I think U.S. industrials could be the sector of the coming decade; it always seems like a specific sector usually shines in most decades and that is my long-term bet this time."
One ETF that might fit the bill should U.S. industrial really be the sector of the coming decade would be the Industrial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLI)
Of course, not all managers think it's a good idea to invest based on what politicians and government leaders say. "I'm very skeptical of pronouncements by politicians," said Cern Basher, the co-founder and chief investment officer of Madison Wealth Management. "Until real action is taken, I can't offer any ideas on what new opportunities exist in the Pacific Rim from President Obama's pronouncement."
That said, Basher noted that there are many opportunities in the Pacific Rim that many companies are already capitalizing on today and there's no doubt that it is a very important region to the future economic success of our country. "The region has a massive population of young, educated, hard-working people who aspire to improve their lives if that doesn't spell opportunity, then I don't know what does," he said. "In my view, our government leaders should focus on building positive relationships with other governments, promote the free flow of goods, services, people and ideas, put tax policies in place that make us competitive and leave them there and then stay out of the way."
And that's not bad advice in the scheme of things.