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Obama: Asia-Pacific Will Shape U.S. Economic Future

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr. | Staff Writer | 14 November 2011
President Obama at podium (AP Images)

President Obama speaks during his closing press conference at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting November 13 in Kapolei, Hawaii.

Washington — President Obama concluded the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in Hawaii, saying that it was a chance to lead the Pacific Rim economies toward a seamless regional economy with more trade, more exports and more jobs.

“No region will do more to shape our long-term economic future than the Asia-Pacific region,” Obama said.

“And since this is the world’s fastest-growing region, the Asia-Pacific is key to achieving my goal of doubling U.S. exports — a goal … which we are on track right now to meet,” Obama said. The president set a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015 as part of a broad effort to rebalance the American economy, which is heavily dependent on consumer spending.

Obama, in his home state, hosted the APEC Leaders’ Meeting November 12–13. It brought together 21 economies from across the Pacific Rim, from Chile to China, to discuss economic growth, financial reform, trade and commerce concerns, and ultimately strengthening regional economic integration.

The Asia-Pacific region is a crucial economic link for the United States. APEC’s 21 member economies make up a market of 2.7 billion consumers, account for 44 percent of world trade, and represent 56 percent of global economic output at more than $35.2 trillion in 2010, according to the White House. Six of the United States’ 10 largest trading partners — Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Singapore — are in APEC.

Last year APEC economies bought 61 percent of U.S. goods exports, which amounted to $774 billion, the White House said in a post-APEC fact sheet. In addition, APEC economies last year accounted for more than 37 percent of U.S. private services exports, which was over $205 billion, and supported 5 million U.S. jobs.

APEC leaders agreed to three broad initiatives: increase free trade while strengthening regional economic integration, promote green growth and green jobs to enhance energy security, and promote regulatory reform to make trade and investment easier. At the core of economic integration across so wide a region is free trade, which effectively expands jobs through export industries, the president said.

“Since many of the leaders here were also at the recent [Group of 20 advanced economies] summit, we continued our efforts to get the global economy to grow faster,” Obama said during a November 13 press briefing at the end of the two-day leaders’ meetings. A day earlier Obama met with chief executive officers of businesses from across the region to emphasize the U.S. commitment to a significant expansion of engagement in what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called “America’s Pacific Century” in a November 10 speech at the East-West Center.

Obama told reporters that the best thing the United States can do for the Pacific Rim and the global economy is to make its own economy grow faster. He said promoting jobs growth domestically will continue to be one of his major initiatives this year, which is marked by the beginning of a presidential election campaign for the November 2012 election.

“I believe that the progress we’ve made here will help create jobs and keep America competitive in a region that is absolutely vital not only for our economy but also for our national security,” Obama said.

The president, who met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the APEC meetings, said that the United States welcomes the peaceful rise of China in the region. “It is in America’s interests to see China succeed in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty,” he said.

The president leaves Hawaii November 15 for meetings in Australia, where he will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Australia alliance. While in Canberra the president is expected to address the Australian parliament and hold talks with senior Australian leaders; he will also make a visit to Darwin. Later Obama travels to Bali in Indonesia for the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings and the East Asia Summit before returning to Washington on November 20. While in Indonesia, Obama will hold individual talks with the Indonesian leadership.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)