By Dan Robinson
As he hosts the APEC summit in his native state of Hawaii, President Barack Obama is holding bilateral talks with leaders from Japan, China and Russia. Particular attention focused on his discussions with China’s president Hu Jintao.
The U.S. relationship with China, and differences over currency policy and security issues figure prominently throughout Mr. Obama’s Asia-Pacific trip.
The president and U.S. officials stress that the U.S. seeks a balanced relationship, one that deals with differences in a way that will benefit both countries and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.
During a session with business executives, the president was asked about his talks with President Hu and the issues expected to come up.
Referring to a “friendly and constructive competition” between the world’s largest and second largest economies, he said China needs to address key issues, ranging from intellectual property protections to the need for further steps to allow China’s currency to appreciate. “The bottom line is that the United States can’t be expected to stand by if there is not the kind of reciprocity in our trade relations and our economic relationships that we need,” he said.
China has been critical of the U.S. effort, with eight other APEC member economies, to create a new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The U.S. and other TPP nations have announced they have achieved the broad outlines of an agreement, and set an aggressive time line to work out remaining issues.
President Hu said China is committed to the long term APEC goal of a Pacific-wide free trade area, and in these translated remarks said Beijing wants to work with others in the region. “We in China will work with you hand in hand and with all sincerity to create a better future for all of us in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.
Mr. Obama said there are “whole range of areas” where the two nations have common interests, but said Americans want China to “play by the rules.”
One American businessman here for APEC, Richard Lavin of Caterpilllar said he saw consistency in statements on trade by Mr. Obama and President Hu. “Really [both had] a strong endorsement for trade generally, and a strong endorsement for some of the initiatives underway to expand free trade in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.
In his talks with Japan’s Prime Minsiter Yoshihiko Noda, Mr. Obama confirmed the importance of the U.S. – Japan alliance, and reiterated concern about Japan’s rebuilding after the earthquake and tsunamis in March.
Referring to resistance within Japan to joining the TPP, Mr. Obama said he does not “underestimate the difficulties” but said TPP won’t be delayed and predicted other nations will join.
Mr. Obama’s talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev focused on steps completed by Russia to speed its entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which the U.S. has hailed as a major step for the so-called “reset” of U.S. – Russia relations.
The Obama – Medvedev meeting also provided their first face-to-face opportunity to discuss the recent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report which found what it called credible evidence that Iran had been working to develop a nuclear weapon.
U.S. officials said earlier they expected the IAEA report would also be among issues President Obama would discuss with President Hu Jintao, and that there would be ongoing consultations on maintaining international pressure on Iran, including additional sanctions.