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Kan, Obama Tout Importance of Free Trade

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his wife Nobuko welcome President Barack Obama at the start of a cultural event at the APEC forum in Yokohama, Japan, 13 Nov 2010

A regional free trade agreement topped discussions on the first day of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Yokohama, Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan reaffirmed his commitment to the a nine-country trade pact while U.S. President Barack Obama pushed for more exports to create jobs back home.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan gave his most public endorsement of a regional free trade pact on the first day of the APEC leaders summit.

In an address to regional business leaders, Mr. Kan said Japan was committed to opening its doors in a significant way. He added that his country was ready to work with eight other members of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership - the trade pact that would lift tariffs on countries that include Australia and the United States.

Kan said that his government would work to quickly improve Japan's domestic situation while pushing forward with TPP discussions. He said Japan can push for free trade while it looks to reform the country's farming industry.

That comment was a direct response to Japanese farmers who have rallied against the free trade pact. They worry the TPP would drive down prices, and open doors to cheap imports.

President Barack Obama welcomed Kan's support on the U.S.-led proposal. He warned against the dangers of export-driven economies, like Japan, saying the economic crises was proof that American consumers and Asian exports alone could not drive economic growth.

Despite that, the president aims to double the number of U.S. exports in the next five years. At the summit, he said that would lead to higher paying jobs back home.

"We see the need for rebalancing as an opportunity to rebuild our economy on a new, stronger foundation for growth - where we save more and spend less, where we're known not just for what we consumer but what we produce," he said.

Chinese President Hu Jin Tao also threw his support behind APEC's larger goal of free trade among all 21 member nations.

But he warned about the fragile economic state of emerging Asian markets, like China.

He said the international community should not force those countries to take on obligations beyond their capabilities. He said that would do no good for economic cooperation and world development.