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Obama Presses US Trade Agenda at APEC

President Barack Obama at the Leaders Retreat at the APEC summit in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010.
President Barack Obama at the Leaders Retreat at the APEC summit in Yokohama, Japan, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010.

President Barack Obama is pressing the U.S. trade agenda as he meets with other leaders in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Yokohama, Japan. Mr. Obama told business executives that nations should work together to share in the prosperity that comes from expanded trade.

Calling the security and prosperity of America and Asia inextricably linked, the president said America is leading again in the region and seeking to expand trade and forge new free trade agreements.

Noting that seven of the top U.S trading partners are members of APEC, with 60 percent of U.S. exports going to the region, Mr. Obama said Asia's economy is expected to grow by 50 percent within five years.

This growth will be produce competition, he said, but competition that can benefit the people of the U.S. and Asia. "But what I've also said throughout this trip is that in the 21st century, theres no need to view trade, commerce, or economic growth as zero sum games, where one country always has to prosper at the expense of another.  If we work together, and act together, strengthening our economic ties can be a win-win for all of our nations," he said.

Mr. Obama spoke on the first day of the APEC summit, an informal pan-Pacific group that brings together leaders from countries as diverse as China and Peru.

Formed in 1989, APEC was designed to help bring down trade barriers.  At a summit in Bogor, Indonesia in 1994 it set goals of free and open trade for industrialized nations by this year, and for developing countries by 2020.

Speaking in Washington before the summit, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg called it an opportunity for members to assess the progress they have made. "It's a chance to look back on how far we have come since the visionary statements coming out of the Bogor (Indonesia) summit 16 years ago, and to see what progress we have made toward achieving the Bogor goals of free trade in the region as well as cataloging the challenges that remain and giving us a blueprint and agenda for the free trade area of the Asia and Pacific," he said.

With the United States assuming the rotating chairmanship of APEC next year, the U.S. has been pushing a regional trade grouping called the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would slash import tariffs for nine countries.

President Obama also had bilateral talks with Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan, saying they focused on the need to expand trade and open markets, nuclear nonproliferation, Afghanistan, and the strength of the U.S. - Japan alliance.

Mr. Obama said the two countries will be working to strengthen that alliance between now and a scheduled visit by Prime Minister Kan in the first half of next year. "We have instructed our governments to intensify their efforts to deepen and modernize our alliance and I hope that by the time prime minister arrives in Washington we will be able to lay out a joint vision that can guide our partnership for decades to come," he said.

President Obama also had bilateral talks Saturday with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

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