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Obama to Push Free Trade at APEC Summit

President Barack Obama speaks at a luau and entertainment portion of the leaders dinner at the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 12, 2011.
President Barack Obama speaks at a luau and entertainment portion of the leaders dinner at the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 12, 2011.

U.S. President Barack Obama formally opens a summit in Hawaii of Asia-Pacific leaders on Sunday, one day after securing agreement on the outlines of a deal to create a huge Pacific Rim free trade zone.

Obama will hold talks with the leaders of 20 other nations that make up the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.  A summit statement due late in the day is expected to praise the outline agreement and give voice to concerns that Europe's festering debt crisis could destabilize Asia-Pacific economies.

In a joint statement Saturday, the U.S. president and leaders of eight other nations called the burgeoning Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) outline a milestone toward the goal of linking Asia-Pacific economies.

Hours later, the White House said Obama used a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao to pressure Beijing on currency policy and the protection of intellectual property rights.

U.S. officials said Obama was "very direct" in communicating the increasing frustration among the public and U.S. businesses about the pace of change in China on key economic issues.

China has been critical of APEC efforts to form the TPP free trade zone, suggesting it is a form of trade protectionism.

For his part, the Chinese president called for more communication and cooperation, and said Beijing and Washington need to respect each other's major concerns and "appropriately manage" sensitive issues.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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