Obama in Singapore for Apec summit
US president to address Asia-Pacific Economic summit as part of his nine-day Asian tour.
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2009 14:49 GMT

Leaders of East Asian countries will hold their first-ever collective talks with a US president [AFP]

The United States president has arrived in Singapore to join a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.

Barack Obama's Air Force One arrived at Singapore's Paya Lebar military airbase late on Saturday after the president visited Japan, part of his nine-day Asian tour that will also take him to China and South Korea.

Obama was expected to catch the end of a dinner with 20 other leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum, before taking part in the summit on Sunday.

The president has called for a new strategy to rebalance global growth, but Asian leaders at the summit are more concerned with US trade protectionism.

Obama is likely to repeat his call to redress economic imbalances blamed for causing the global financial crisis.

The strategy calls for the US to save more, spend less, reform its financial systyem and cut its deficits and borrowing.

"People want to see concrete signs of engagement with this region"

Veronica Pedrosa, Al Jazeera correspondent

"It will also mean a greater emphasis on exports that we can produce, and sell all over the world," Obama said in Tokyo, Japan.

"We simply cannot return to the same cycles of boom and bust that led us into a global recession."

Veronica Pedrosa, Al Jazeera's correspondent at the Apec summit, reported that Asian leaders are not convinced by Obama's rhetoric, saying they want to see concrete signs of US engagement with the region.

"By and large there is a huge reserve of goodwill for the US President Barack Obama. Attitudes towards the US have shifted dramatically in President Obama's favour in this part of the world," she said.

"People do want to see increased US global leadership, however, people want to see concrete signs of engagement with this region and Asian leaders are urging Obama to re-focus on free trade."

Myanmar premier

On the sidelines of the Apec summit, Obama plans to meet leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Thein Sein, Myanmar's prime minister, on Sunday.

The meeting will mark the first time in 43 years that a US president holds collective talks with a Myanmar leader.

US president set to hold talks with Thein Sein, Myanmar's prime minister, at Apec [EPA]

The Obama administration is embarking on a new policy towards Burma which it describes as engagement while keeping sanctions in place.

In a speech delivered in Tokyo on Saturday, Obama urged Myanmar to release Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained democracy leader, and other political prisoners.

He urged the regime to take a path to "true security and prosperity".

"We are now communicating directly with the leadership to make it clear that existing sanctions will remain until there are concrete steps toward democratic reform," Obama said.

"We support a Burma that is unified, peaceful, prosperous and democratic. And as Burma moves in that direction, a better relationship with the United States is possible."

The comments reflect the Obama administration's policy turnaround towards Myanmar, abandoning Washington's long-time stance of political isolation towards the country's undemocratic leaders, in favour of cautious diplomatic engagement.

Taiwan-China deal

Lien Chan, a Taiwanese delegate attending the summit, is also expected to meet separately with Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, to try and reach a trade agreement.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Singapore on Friday, Lien said he hoped the two sides could sign a proposed Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA) "as soon as possible".

"We hope to complete the whole process by next year," Lien, who served as the self-ruled island's vice-president from 1996 to 2000, said.

Apec - functional, or just fashionable?
By Teymoor Nabili in The Asia Blog
The economic agreement is seen as bringing the two sides closer to normalising and systemising their economic relations.

Hu and Lien, the honorary chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party, met one-on-one at last year's Apec gathering in Peru amid a warming in ties brought about the 2008 election of President Ma Ying-jeou.

It marked the highest-level overseas meeting between the former rivals since their split in 1949 after a civil war.

Chinese economy

Asia-Pacific finance ministers this week called for market-oriented currencies to rebalance growth while they pledged to seek free and open trade and investment.

special report

During a speech to Apec business and political leaders on Friday, Hu warned that "we must resist protectionism in all its manifestations, particularly trade and investment restrictions imposed on developing countries".

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects Asia's economies will grow 6 per cent next year compared to just 1.2 per cent for the G3 economies of the US, the EU and Japan.

With much of the world still reeling from the impact of the slowdown, our correspondent said the catchwords of the summit were "inclusive, balanced and sustainable growth", with the emerging economies of Asia, particularly China, taking centre stage.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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