President Obama — in His ‘Contested’ Birthplace — Heralds Agreement on Outline of Pacific Trade Treaty

Nov 12, 2011 7:03pm

HONOLULU, Hawaii – “This is my birthplace,” President Obama said today to a room full of CEOs, here for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

“I know that was contested for a while,” he said to laughter, “but I can actually show you the hospital if…you want to go down there.”

Making another nod to being in the state he once called home — and where he continues to vacation — the president noted that, “In all my years of living in Hawaii and visiting Hawaii, this is the first time that I’ve ever worn a suit, so it feels a little odd.”

Much of the president’s day here has been devoted to hammering out a new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the broad framework of which was agreed to today by all nine parties — Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States.

The leaders of Japan have expressed an interest in joining as well.

China’s Assistant Commerce Minister Yu Jianhua, asked if the second-largest economy in the world would want to join the TPP, said that Beijing had not received an invitation.

“If one day we receive such an invitation, we will seriously study” it, Yu said, according to Reuters.

But Michael Froman, the deputy assistant to President Obama and deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, said that’s not how the TPP works, since partner nations have to meet certain standards.

“TPP is not something that one gets invited to,” Froman said. “It’s something that one aspires to.”

Administration officials say the TPP is part of a larger strategy to contain China’s continued expansion and growth, through not only economic alliances in the Pacific, but through diplomatic and national security measures — Obama will next week announce that U.S. troops will have a presence in Australia.

There is also a domestic consideration, of course. The president today said that the TPP would help achieve his goal of doubling U.S. exports.

“With nearly 500 million consumers between us, there is so much more we can do together,” he said, arguing that the deal would help create jobs.

– Jake Tapper

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