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Economics, Iran; Issues in Obama APEC Talks

President Barack Obama answers questions from Boeing Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney as he attends the APEC CEO Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, Nov. 12, 2011.
President Barack Obama answers questions from Boeing Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney as he attends the APEC CEO Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, Nov. 12, 2011.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in Hawaii hosting the APEC summit, has met with leaders from China, Russia and Japan.

Mr. Obama's talks with Presidents Hu Jintao and Dmitry Medvedev covered economic issues, non-proliferation efforts, and Iran's nuclear program.

Mr. Obama and President Hu last met in Cannes, France on the sidelines of the G20 summit amid the turmoil surrounding the debt crisis in Europe.

Sitting with the Chinese leader in Honolulu, Mr. Obama called cooperation with China vital, adding that despite differences, they would discuss how to re-balance growth and ensure there is a "win-win" trading relationship.

U.S. officials said President Obama was "very direct" in communicating one particular thing to the Chinese leader - increasing frustration and impatience among Americans and U.S. businesses about the pace of change in China on key issues in the economic relationship.

Mike Froman, the deputy national security advisor for international economic affairs, said, "There has been more and more concern and frustration on the part of parts of the American business community about their treatment in China and their desire for China to take further action."

President Hu called for more communication and cooperation, adding both countries need to respect each others major concerns, and "appropriately manage" sensitive issues.

During a session with business executives Saturday, President Obama listed the issues, ranging from intellectual property protections to the need for further steps to allow China's currency to appreciate.

President Obama said, "The bottom line is that the United States can't be expected to stand by if there is not the kind of reciprocity in our trade relations and our economic relationships that we need."

China has been critical of the U.S. effort, with eight other APEC member economies, to create a new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), suggesting it is a form of trade protectionism, a word President Hu used in remarks earlier Saturday.  

TPP nations agreed to move that process forward and complete the new group by next year. And Japan has announced it intends to enter into consultations with the TPP group with an eye toward eventual membership.

The recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that found what it called credible evidence Iran had been working to develop a nuclear weapon figured in Mr. Obama's talks with President Hu and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. and Russia would work to shape a "common response" to press Iran to abide by its international obligations.

White House officials were asked precisely what that meant.  Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes insisted that the U.S., China and Russia remain united on the need to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, while Press Secretary Jay Carney also addressed the question.

Rhodes said, "They do not want to see the spread of nuclear weapons to Iran or frankly to any new state and therefore they remain committed to diplomatic efforts to compel Iran to live up to its obligations."

Press Secretary Carney said, "The focus was on working together cooperatively, moving forward on next steps."

Mr. Obama and President Medvedev also discussed steps Russia has taken to satisfy requirements for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the situation in Syria, and the U.S.-Russia disagreement over a European missile defense system.

President Obama and Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda discussed the U.S. - Japan alliance.  Mr. Obama said he understood resistance within Japan to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but said TPP will not be delayed and he predicted other nations will join.

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