YOKOHAMA, Japan – President Barack Obama appealed to Asian leaders today for greater access to fast-growing markets, proclaiming “the United States is here to stay,” saying its prosperity is tied inextricably to its Pacific trading partners.
“America is leading again in Asia,” Obama told a gathering of chief executives at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, stressing anew his goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years. “For America, this is a jobs strategy,” the president said. “In this region, the United States sees a huge opportunity to increase our exports in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.”
At the same time, Obama said that healthy competition need not cause ruptures in relationships between and among nations.
“There’s 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,” he said. “The story of Asia over the last few decades is the story of change so rapid and transformative that it may be without precedent in human history,” Obama added.
His speech came on his first full day in Japan, following a divisive G-20 summit in Seoul where he failed to win the backing of other international leaders for a get-tough policy toward China over its currency stance and also missed his goal of reaching agreement with longtime ally South Korea on a new free-trade pact.
But Obama told his audience he was pleased that the U.S. lead was followed in Seoul on the agreement by his summit partners on the development of a system of greater monitoring to help avoid the conditions and practices that caused the near-economic meltdown two years ago.
A defensive Obama had taken exception Friday to questions about whether his personal leadership or U.S. influence on the world stage – or both – had deteriorated.
In his speech to the CEOs, Obama chose to focus on progress he made on this 10-day Asia tour, his longest overseas trip since becoming president.
“The United States is looking to expand trade and commerce throughout the Asia-Pacific,” he said. “Even though our exports to this region have risen by more than 60 percent over the last five years, our overall share of trade in the region has declined in favor of our competitors.
“We want to change that,” the president said.
Obama started his Asia trip in the aftermath of a political battering at home, as Republicans recaptured the House. His meetings at the APEC forum were his last before he heads back.
The mission of creating jobs for Americans was at the heart of Obama’s trip to Asia. Obama pushed back when asked if people are going to be seeing noticeable job growth in his four-year term.
“We’ve grown the economy by a million jobs over the last year,” Obama said. “So that’s pretty noticeable. I think those million people who’ve been hired notice those paychecks.”