- Leaders agree on the outline of a trans-Pacific trade agreement
- The deal is expected to be finalized in the coming year, Obama says
- The president is in Hawaii for a weekend Asian-Pacific economic conference
- He is on a 9-day trip that will also take him to Australia and Indonesia
President Barack Obama, in Hawaii for a weekend economic conference, said Saturday that leaders of nine nations have agreed on the "broad outlines" of a trans-Pacific free trade agreement.
The United States has been negotiating with Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile and Peru to develop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which officials have said could eventually expand to include other nations.
Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Honolulu, Obama pushed the expanded trade deal as a way to help boost investment and exports, create jobs, and "compete and win in the markets of the future."
The president is on a nine-day trip through the Asia-Pacific region that will include stops in Australia and Indonesia.
"I'm very pleased to announce that our nine nations have reached the broad outlines of an agreement. There are still plenty of details to work out, but we are confident that we can do so. So we've directed our teams to finalize this agreement in the coming year. It is an ambitious goal, but we are optimistic that we can get it done," he said, according to remarks provided by his office.
The next round of negotiations is scheduled for early next month.
Obama said the TPP has the potential to be a model for future trade agreements elsewhere in the world, as it will address issues not covered in previous pacts. It will ensure that state-owned enterprises compete fairly with private companies and address trade and investment in digital technologies.
Obama's administration is taking care to highlight the importance of strong Asia-Pacific relations to the president's efforts to create jobs domestically.
"The U.S. exports to this region are essential to the president's goal of doubling U.S. exports in the next several years," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, told reporters in a briefing this week. "In fact, nearly all of the efforts that we're going to be making towards that export goal take place in this part of the world."
The 21 members of APEC account for 55% of the world's gross domestic product, 43% of world trade and 58% of U.S. exports, according to the group.
"So I think when the American people see the president traveling in the Asia-Pacific, they will see him advocating for U.S. jobs and U.S. businesses," Rhodes said. "He will be trying to open new markets, and he will be trying to achieve new export initiatives, and he will be trying to foster a trade agreement through the, for instance, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that takes us beyond the Korea Free Trade Agreement towards a multilateral agreement that, again, has very high standards to ensure that our interests are being protected."
During the weekend conference, Obama was also scheduled to have a discussion with business leaders, as well as side meetings with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao. Obama met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Saturday.
After a break Monday for a political fundraiser, Obama is scheduled to depart Tuesday for Australia and later Bali, Indonesia, where he will stress the U.S. role in the Asia-Pacific region and seek to reassure U.S. allies of the nation's continued commitment to the region, Rhodes said.
Speaking to business leaders on Saturday, the president addressed the need to campaign aggressively on behalf of the United States to boost business.
"We've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We've kind of taken for granted -- well, people will want to come here and we aren't out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America," he said. "We can do much better than we're doing right now."