Obama reveals Pacific plans in Hawaii summit

Obama reveals Pacific plans in Hawaii summit

HONOLULU, Hawaii - Agence France-Presse
Obama reveals Pacific plans in Hawaii summit

US President Obama (R) and wife Michelle Obama (L) welcome Brunei’s Sultan Bolkiah during a ceremony at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hawaii. AFP photo

U.S. President Barack Obama hosted a summit yesterday of Asia-Pacific leaders after announcing ambitious plans for a pan-regional trade zone that have frayed relations with China.

As Obama welcomed regional leaders to his palm-fringed home state of Hawaii, Japan boosted the nascent Trans-Pacific Partnership by announcing it would join talks on what could become the world’s biggest free trade area.

But Obama balanced his calls for regional unity with a challenge to emerging economic superpower China to sign up to developed world trade standards.

“We represent close to three billion people, from different continents and cultures; North, South, East and West; men and women of every faith, color and creed,” Obama said as he welcomed regional leaders at the summit. He told Chinese President Hu Jintao that Americans were “impatient” for a change of Beijing’s economic policy.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), would strike down tariffs and trade barriers and inject momentum to liberalization hopes bogged down by inconclusive talks on the Doha trade round.

In Hawaii, the pact got a fresh boost when new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda committed to exploring talks about joining the pact.

Obama has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports to create jobs at home. But he also hopes that the TPP will serve as a strategic linchpin as the United States winds down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and refocuses on Asia.

The TPP was signed in 2005 as an obscure agreement among Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. Obama suddenly turned it into the cornerstone of U.S. free trade drive, with Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, the United States and Vietnam now also in the talks