U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that the United States is renewing its focus on the Asia-Pacific region as the world's economic and strategic center shifts eastward. Clinton spoke in Honolulu, Hawaii before joining trade talks of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, or APEC. The talks will continue through Sunday, when President Barack Obama is set to host a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders. The secretary of state outlined her vision for what she called America's Pacific century.
Clinton said that as the war in Iraq winds down and with Afghanistan in transition, the Obama administration is renewing its focus on the Pacific region, which is home to nearly half of the world's population and some of its fastest-growing economies, including India and APEC-member China.
“And one of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decades will be to lock in a substantially increased investment - diplomatic, economic, strategic and otherwise - in this region," said Clinton.
Clinton said there is new momentum in U.S. trade with the region, following the recent passage of the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement and with talks underway to create a Trans-Pacific Partnership - a free trade group that would include the United States and at least eight other countries.
She said the United States will continue to work on challenges such as human rights abuses in Burma, where she noted there are stirrings of change, and on human rights and trade concerns with China, where she said American companies want an even playing field.
“In particular, we are working with China to end unfair discrimination against U.S. and other foreign companies, and we are working to protect innovative technologies [and] remove competition-distorting preferences," she said. "China must allow its currency to appreciate more rapidly and end the measures that disadvantage or pirate foreign intellectual property."
Secretary Clinton and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will continue to meet with their counterparts on Friday, and President Obama will host APEC leaders for dinner on Saturday and at a summit on Sunday. Mr. Obama is also scheduled to hold meetings with his Chinese and Russian counterparts and with Japan's prime minister.