"No region will do more to shape our long-term economic future than the Asia-Pacific region," said President Barack Obama at a press conference in Hawaii, where he hosted this year's meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC:
"The United States is, and always will be, a Pacific nation. Many of our top trading partners are in this region. This is where we sell most of our exports, supporting some 5 million American jobs. And since this is the world’s fastest growing region, the Asia Pacific is key to achieving my goal of doubling U.S. exports — a goal, by the way, which we are on track right now to meet."
"The Asia Pacific region is absolutely critical to America's economic growth," said President Obama. "We consider it a top priority. And we consider it a top priority because we're not going to be able to put our folks back to work and grow our economy and expand opportunity unless the Asia Pacific region is also successful."
One of APEC's main goals is to reduce barriers to trade and commerce, thus improving the flow of goods and services. "We represent close to 3 billion people, from different continents and cultures," said President Obama. "Our citizens have sent us here with a common task: to bring our economies closer together; to cooperate; to create jobs and prosperity that our people deserve so that they can provide for their families."
This means creating free-trade zones. A component of that effort is development of the proposed nine-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would unite Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam.
But it also means that the playing field must be level, and member nations must obey the same rules. They must operate on a market-based currency system, protect intellectual property rights, build up domestic markets instead of concentrating mostly on export, and enforce existing trade laws.
"Today, we've got an opportunity to make progress towards our ultimate goal, which is a seamless regional economy," said President Obama. "The economies of this region have a critical role to play in addressing the imbalances and making sure that growth is balanced and sustainable in the future."