Obama declares Asia-Pacific trip a success

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks alongside Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the East Asia Summit on November 19.

Story highlights

  • President Barack Obama declares Asia-Pacific trip a success
  • Obama says deals cemented on the trip will support U.S. jobs and exports
  • Obama also meets with Chinese premier over maritime disputes, economic issues
  • Obama is scheduled to return to Washington early Sunday
U.S. President Barack Obama declared his nine-day Asia-Pacific trip a success on Saturday, returning to the trip's domestic impact after focusing for days on the United States' role in the region and its relationship with China.
In his weekly address, delivered from Bali, Indonesia,Obama said the trip helped cement trade deals that will support nearly 130,000 jobs. Agreements announced to export Boeing aircraft and G.E. engines to the region could increase U.S. exports by up to $39 billion, he said.
"These agreements will help us reach my goal of doubling American exports by 2014 -- a goal we're on pace to meet," he said.
Obama was flying back to the United States on Saturday. He was scheduled to be back in Washington early Sunday.
The administration advertised the trip, which began with a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Hawaii, primarily as an effort to shore up to United States' role in the economically important region as a means of helping boost the ailing U.S. economy.
Secondarily, White House officials characterized the trip as an effort to demonstrate its commitment to the region and its allies there as the United States winds down its military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan and China begins to exert its own rising influence.
During the trip, Obama announced an agreement to station U.S. Marines in Australia and held face-to-face meetings with Chinese officials and other leaders on economic and security issues, in addition to participating in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations economic summit and the East Asia Summit in Indonesia -- a first for a U.S. president, according to the White House.
During the summit, Obama and his counterparts discussed economic issues, disaster response and territorial disputes over the South China Sea, an area critical to maritime shipping and one rich in oil and fish.
China has claimed a significant portion of the South China Sea as its own territorial waters, putting it in conflict with other nations that have made claims on portions of the region.
Sixteen of 18 leaders present at the meeting spoke out strongly against China's stance in what was a productive, but not confrontational meeting, according to a senior administration official. Premier Wen Jiabao told the group that China wants to see the issue resolved peacefully, according to the official.
"I think it was constructive, and one has to believe that the Chinese premier will go back to Beijing with the sense that the center of gravity in the Asia Pacific area is around the adherence to the principle of the rule of law, peaceful resolution, and a constructive, rules-based approach to the resolution of territorial disputes," the official said.
Obama later met with the Chinese premier in a hastily-arranged meeting to continue their discussion on economic issues and the territorial dispute.
Those talks occurred against the backdrop of Chinese consternation over the United States' increasing assertiveness in the region.
An editorial published Friday by the state-controlled Xinhua news agency chided the United States for what it called a willingness to flaunt international rules, even as it insists other countries follow them. It highlighted the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
"Today, when the world is still facing many difficult global challenges, the United States needs to first revisit its double standards on international rules and start observing them itself instead of lecturing China." Xinhua said in the editorial.
Obama's last appointment Saturday before leaving for Washington was a meeting with Thailand's first woman prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Obama congratulated Shinawatra on her "inspirational" election win, and offered condolences and assistance to those affected by the flooding in Thailand.
He also described Thailand as one of America's oldest allies and spoke of the two nations' great friendship. When Shinawatra expressed her regret at not having visited the United States, Obama responded by inviting her to Hawaii.