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Obama pushes for renewed engagement with Asia

By Brianna Keilar, CNN White House Correspondent
updated 10:27 PM EST, Sun November 13, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Leaders from 19 nations meet at APEC conference in Hawaii
  • Obama seeks a new era in foreign policy focusing on Asia
  • He has met with his Japanese, Russian and Chinese counterparts

Honolulu (CNN) -- Leaders from 19 nations and representatives from two others met Sunday in Hawaii, talking trade and how to jump-start their own and the international economy.

For U.S. President Barack Obama, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was an opportunity to push for renewed engagement with Asia, seeking to highlight domestic jobs that increased exports to the region would create.

The summit wrapped up late Sunday afternoon, with a "class photo" involving those representing all 21 nations in APEC.

Obama used the event -- the first involving nations from both sides of the Pacific to be hosted in U.S. territory since Bill Clinton's presidential administration -- as a kickoff for a new era in foreign policy focusing on the region.

Still, for him and others, the economic crisis in Europe remained a central concern.

"I was pleased to see that European leaders were taking seriously the need to not just solve the Greek crisis, but also to solve the broader eurozone crisis," Obama said during a session.

"There have been some positive developments over the last week: a new potential government in Italy, a new government in Greece -- both committed to applying the sort of internal structural reform that can give markets more confidence."

The president also emphasized the U.S. need to court foreign investment, despite leading the world in that area.

"We've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades," Obama said. "We've kind of taken for granted that people will want to come here, and we aren't out there trying to sell America and attract new businesses into America.'

CEOs of Johnson & Johnson, Caterpillar and Google passed when asked to comment on the president's characterization of the problem, though Eric Schmidt of Google said "lazy" is not the word he would have used.

The only APEC leaders not in attendance are from Thailand and Mexico, which sent lower-level representatives as their heads of state dealt with flooding and, in the case of Mexico, the death of its interior minister.

Over the weekend, Obama has met personally with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

With Medvedev, the president discussed economic issues and Iran, which a recent IAEA report finds to be closer to having the capacity to make nuclear weapons. Russia has expressed skepticism of the findings.

"We discussed Iran and reaffirmed our intention to work to shape a common response so we can move Iran to follow its international obligations when it comes to its nuclear program," Obama said, revealing few specifics.

In his meeting with Hu, the president addressed currency manipulation and protecting U.S. intellectual property from illegal use by Chinese companies and the government.

"He made it very clear that the American people and the American business community were growing increasingly impatient and frustrated with the state of change in China economic policy and the evolution of the U.S. China economic relationship," Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser told reporters at a briefing Saturday night in Honolulu.

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