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Obama covers plenty of ground on opening day of APEC leaders' meetings

By Ben Feller

AP White House Correspondent

LAST UPDATED: 02:09 p.m. HST, Nov 12, 2011

Placing high hopes on the economic power of Pacific rim nations, President Barack Obama today declared the Asia-Pacific region the heart of explosive growth for years to come. For businesses, he said, “this is where the action’s going to be.”

Obama was in Hawaii courting Asian powers as he sought to improve the beleaguered American jobs outlook. His move comes as his administration has poured attention and capital into deepening relations with Asia as a source of trade, jobs and security ties.

“There is no region in the world that we consider more vital than the Asia-Pacific region,” he told chief executives gathered for a regional economic summit.

For the U.S., Obama’s outreach also reflects worries about Europe’s economic troubles and the need for the United States to tap the enormous base of potential consumers in the emerging nations of Asia.

Underscoring the region’s importance to the U.S., Obama today, as expected, announced the broad outlines of an agreement to create a transpacific trade zone encompassing the United States and eight other nations. He said details must still be worked out, but said the goal was to complete the deal by next year. ‘I’m confident we can get this done,” he said.

On a day of heavy diplomacy, the president also was looking to contain deepening worries over Iran amid a fresh U.N. atomic agency report that Iran is working secretly on a nuclear weapon.

On the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific economic summit, Obama met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and was to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The timing of the meetings with the Russian and Chinese leaders was particularly significant as Obama seeks to increase world pressure on Iran.

Obama postponed a three-way working dinner Sunday with Mexico President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper after Calderon had to skip the APEC summit due to the death of his secretary of Interior, Francisco Blake Mora, in a helicopter crash Friday.

Obama is the host of the APEC gathering, a non-binding forum that draws 21 nations from across a vast Asia-Pacific region. Obama chose to host the event in his home state of Hawaii to illustrate his ties and economic commitment to the Pacific region, although security threats may well dominate his private meetings. 

“The United States is a Pacific power and we’re here to stay,” Obama said.

He called the transpacific trade zone agreement a model for the Asia-Pacific region and for other trade pacts. Seated with the leaders of the eight other nations, Obama said the trade zone would increase U.S. exports and help create jobs, a top priority.

He said the U.S. is committed to shaping the future security and prosperity of what he called the “fastest growing region in the world.”

The eight countries joining the U.S. in the zone would be Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. A central topic for Obama and Noda will be Japan’s interest in joining the trade bloc.

In a sign of potential tension with China, Mike Froman, a deputy national security adviser who focuses on international economic matters, shrugged off complaints from China that it had not been invited to join the trade bloc. He told reporters that China had not expressed interest in joining and said the trade group “is not something that one gets invited to. It’s something that one aspires to.”

That pact and its potential payoff for U.S. jobs and business will allow Obama to cast his far-flung travels as crucial to American voters with an election year approaching and concerns of domestic voters centered on the dragging economy. Obama also was to meet with U.S. business leaders Saturday to highlight the importance for interests back home of the Asia-Pacific region. 

Addressing the European debt crisis, Obama said he welcomed the new governments being formed in Greece and Italy, saying they should help calm world financial markets. He said leaders in both countries are demonstrating a commitment to “structural reform” that should give investors confidence. Obama said all of Europe should back the 17 eurozone members in their efforts to resolve their debt crisis — and warned until that’s resolved, they’ll will have a “dampening effect” on the global economy.

Ahead of Obama’s arrival on Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the Pacific Rim summit that Iran has a history of deception over its nuclear intentions and must respond to the International Atomic Energy Agency report “in the coming days.” Iran dismisses the allegation about its nuclear program and says its activities are meant to be used only for energy or research.

With Hu and Medvedev, Obama encounters two leaders with whom he’s sought close relations despite fraught histories between the U.S. and those countries, with disagreements on human rights, territorial disputes, economics and other issues. For the president, the challenge is to maintain those ties while also pushing U.S. priorities. 

It will be Obama’s first meetings with those leaders since release of a report by the atomic agency saying for the first time that Iran is suspected of conducting secret experiments whose sole purpose is the development of nuclear arms. 

For the U.S., the report offered significant support for some long-held suspicions and lent international credence to claims that Tehran isn’t solely interested in developing atomic energy for peaceful purposes. 

U.S. officials have said the IAEA report is unlikely to persuade reluctant powers such as China and Russia to support tougher sanctions on the Iranian government. But Obama’s talks with Hu and Medvedev on that issue and others, including the North Korea nuclear threat, and China’s currency, which the U.S. believes China manipulates to the detriment of U.S. interests, were sure to be closely watched.

Obama will be in Honolulu through Tuesday, when he leaves for Australia before ending his trip in Indonesia, the country where he spent several years as a boy. He will attend a security summit of Asian nations. 


Associated Press Writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.


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sloturle wrote:
Don't you just love it when it says HONOLULU in capitol letters and our president is showing.
on November 12,2011 | 04:22AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
Aloha: Banning Hawaiian canoe paddling on the Ala Wai was a bit much. Close Hawai`i's `Iolani Palace showed a lack of class. A myriad of other measures that keep visitors from "seeing" Hawai`i were all not-very-well thought out. But not giving leis to the President of the United States and our First Lady when they arrived back in his birthplace was unconscionable. Several of our elected officials were wearing leis but didn't even show they knew enough about Hawaiian tradition and aloha to give their leis to the visitors on arrival. As one older Hawaiian said, "That showed they had no aloha spirit at all."
on November 12,2011 | 05:39AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
You are probably talking about Governor Abercrombie right? Yah sure he is from Buffalo, New York. Who would think of giving Leis to POTUS, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Hawaii of course. And who is in charge of Hawaii? Not me.
on November 12,2011 | 06:29AM
Sat wrote:
The picture of Abercrombie with a lei and Obama without is a clear image of a small potato trying to be in the same league as the big potato. As always, Abercrombie looks ridiculous.
on November 12,2011 | 07:15AM
SmedleyFerndock wrote:
I am surprised Neil can even get a visitors pass to get onto Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam even if he is Governor. Considering his past history protesting, I would expect him to be on a restricted list. As a veteran, I cringe every time I see Neil at a ceremony such as the veterans day ceremony at Punch Bowl Friday.
on November 12,2011 | 08:04AM
Changalang wrote:
I love this guy; probably the sharpest President we have ever had since the founding fathers. They fact that he likes Hawaii is so good for Hawaii. The Obamas will love Aulani, and Hawaii will benefit from the Disney Cruise ship expansion. Four more years; guaranteed. ;)
on November 12,2011 | 06:12AM
WesleySMori wrote:
Amen Changalang. "AMEN"!!! "GOD BLESS HAWAII & AMERICA"!!!!!
on November 12,2011 | 10:34AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
A little amateur reading of Body Language: Barry -- Yes I am so happy for you. Oh me, yeah, so so. Michelle -- I am scared out of my mind. Please help me. Let me see if professionals such as Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Therapists agree/disagree with me and to what extent. LOL LOL LOL. Three Laugh Out Louds. This is a family program so I do not want to include the other ones. LOL.
on November 12,2011 | 06:22AM
Keopele wrote:
I agree with KeithHaugen, it's unbelievable and embarrassing that the Obamas weren't greeted with lei, how could that happen?! Especially since the greeters were wearing them. It's really shameful. Does anyone know where they are staying?
on November 12,2011 | 08:15AM
allie wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on November 12,2011 | 08:20AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
Aloha: I'm familiar with differences in protocol in different countries and cultures and I have no problem with that, in their countries. And we all try to honor those differences when we are in their countries. They should do the same, and honor the traditions in our country. When in Hawai`i, they should do as the Hawaiians do. And regardless of the misunderstandingo f protocols in other countries, that should not apply to our President. Barack Obama was born here. He is a keiki o ka `aina, a kama`aina who deserved to be treated in the protocol, culture and traditions of the place of his birth. That means he and Michelle should have been greeted with leis, even if it meant that the Governor and Congresswoman could have passed on the leis that they had received earlier and were wearing. BTW, I don't think it was a concern that some dignitaries feared looking "silly or unimportant" by receiving and wearing a lei. A little education goes a long way. I recall years ago, when Larry Eshleman, a military intelligence officer who was ma`a with all of the cultures (and many of the languages) in Asia compiled a list of "dos and don't" so as to not offend folks when we are in their country. I have a copy of that work and don't recall anything saying wearing a lei would make one look unimportant.
on November 12,2011 | 09:06AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
If Abercrombie refused to give leis to the President and First Lady, I guess that makes him a good follower, afraid perhaps to stand up and be counted. FYI, the lei did not make Neil look silly or unimportant.
on November 12,2011 | 09:12AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
If Abercrombie refused to give leis to the President and First Lady, I guess that makes him a good follower, afraid perhaps to stand up and be counted. FYI, the lei did not make Neil look silly or unimportant.
on November 12,2011 | 09:13AM
KeithHaugen wrote:
If Abercrombie refused to give leis to the President and First Lady, I guess that makes him a good follower, afraid perhaps to stand up and be counted. FYI, the lei did not make Neil look silly or unimportant.
on November 12,2011 | 09:13AM
Kailua213 wrote:
The people of Hawai'i voted Abercrombie for governor. So why you guys complaining? deal with it for the next four years den vote for someone that will help the people & make Hawaii proud.
on November 12,2011 | 11:18PM
cojef wrote:
No class act, typical hippy attitude, which is tougher to get rid off. As governor he is obligated to portray the Hawaiian image. The lei is symbolic of how we greet or welcome our visitors. In the attendent case, more so as, Obama is a native son returning to land of his birth. Could,Neil envy the fact that he is not a native son??? Aiona would have given Obama a Hawaiian greeting, even though being a republican!!!!
on November 12,2011 | 09:59AM
Carang_da_buggahz wrote:
I have always found the claim that Barack Hussein Obama is somehow a "local boy" quite laughable. The fact of the matter is, he used that, and continues to use that, as some sort of PR "proof" that he's just one of the boys. He left Hawai'i a long time ago to head to the halls of Black Power in America: Chicago. And there he sat in the congregation of Rev. Jeremiah Wright for some 20 years, listening to him spew his racist hate against our beloved country. Then Obama somehow claims that he never heard ANY of this during his decades of sitting in Wright's church. Right. I will NEVER consider this shyster to be one of da bruddahs. He has used us to advance his agenda whenever it suits his purpose. Nothing more. He is truly a conniving politician of the highest order, with no substance to speak of. An extremely talented orator in an empty suit.
on November 12,2011 | 12:02PM
Changalang wrote:
Nah. I met him in high school days. My cousin hung out with him sometimes. He was pretty mean at B-ball, and pretty open to guys from the other schools. He was definitely not a Punahou snob type (if there is such a thing) ;). He was a cool braddah from my memory. I see him now in that high pressure job turning gray, but you can still see that cool ebbing out; mellow guy with true magnetism. Good to see he has not lost it over the decades and the path to the top.
on November 12,2011 | 12:49PM
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