President Barack Obama said on Thursday he planned to discuss a strategy with Asia Pacific leaders calling on their countries to import more U.S. goods and the world to rely less on exporting to the United States.
"In the coming days, I'll also be meeting with leaders abroad to discuss a strategy for growth that is both balanced and broadly shared," Obama said before leaving on an Asia trip that includes a meeting of APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) leaders in Singapore.
"It's a strategy in which Asian and Pacific markets are open to our exports, and one in which prosperity around the world is no longer as dependent on American consumption and borrowing, but rather more on American innovation and products," Obama said.
U.S. officials declined to say whether the strategy involves the negotiation of new trade agreements, which many of Obama's fellow Democrats blame for U.S. manufacturing job losses over the past two decades but business groups say are the best tool to open new markets abroad.
"The president will discuss all of this further during his trip," USTR spokeswoman Carol Guthrie said in an email to Reuters.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will give a speech on Saturday to the APEC CEO summit entitled "The United States and APEC Partners in Global Trade," Kirk's office said.
Obama was to speak at the meeting, but is unable to do so because his departure for Asia was delayed by his trip to Texas to honor the victims of a shooting rampage at Fort Hood army base.
Last year, the U.S. trade deficit with the 20 other members of APEC totaled $538.4 billion, far larger than the $177.6 billion deficit with OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) or the $95.8 billion deficit with the 27 nations of the European Union.
APEC's diverse membership includes the biggest U.S. trading partners in Asia and North America - China, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Mexico -- as well as Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has urged Obama to announce this week in Asia that the United States will participate in a regional trade initiative called the Transpacific Partnership.
That would build on existing U.S. free trade deals with Chile, Australia, Singapore and Peru by adding new pacts with other countries such as New Zealand, Brunei and Vietnam.
Proponents say the initiative would ensure the United States remain a part of fast-forming regional trading arrangements in Asia, which is seen as the biggest source of global economic growth in coming years.
Baucus also urged Obama to move more aggressively to resolve auto, beef and other market access concerns with South Korea that are blocking U.S. approval of a free trade agreement that the U.S. International Trade Commission has estimated would boost U.S. goods exports by about $10 billion.
U.S. imports from South Korea were projected to increase by about $7 billion under the pact.