John Kerry: U.S. commitment to Asia strong despite Obama's absence

Updated Oct. 7, 2013 at 4:19 PM
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BALI, Indonesia, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. commitment to Asia is strong despite President Obama's missing several summits because of the U.S. government shutdown, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Kerry assured the diplomats attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, Indonesia, the events in Washington were nothing more than "a moment of politics."

"We've all seen it before; we'll probably see it again, but I guarantee you we will move beyond this and we will move beyond it with strength and determination," Kerry said.

"I want to emphasize that there is nothing that will shake the commitment of the United States to the rebalance to Asia that President Obama is leading," Kerry said. "And I think it's fair to say to all of you that we are very, very proud to be a Pacific nation."

The Asia Pacific region "is by far the largest, the fastest-growing, and the most dynamic economic region in the world," Kerry said, noting lives are being defined increasingly by efforts in the private sector through partnerships with governments and "students who represent the future of this multinational, multicultural and multigenerational relationship that is being built in the dawn of the 21st century."

"This is an exciting time," he said. "It's an extraordinary time of transformation and change."

"Quite simply, how this region grows, and how we engage the 2.7 billion customers who live here, that will shape the future of the world's economy," he said.

More than half of global gross domestic product is represented by the region and half of the global trade occurs in this region, Kerry noted. Half of the United States' trading partners are APEC economies.

"And over the next five years, nearly half of all the economic growth that will happen outside of the United States will happen in the Asia-Pacific region," he said. "So if you put it all together, it is obvious why all of us, the private sector and the public sector, have a stake in the choices that we will make in the days ahead."

"But make no mistake, they are choices, and they will require the private sector and the public sector to work together like never before, in order to make the right choices."

At the APEC summit, Obama had planned to press ahead on negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a U.S.-led trade bloc that excludes China. CNN said China is also hoping to be a TPP member in the next three to four years despite issues including China's restrictions on Internet access.

The ultimate aim of the TPP talks to create a free trade pact for Asia-Pacific nations. Currently the nations involved in the TPP effort are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Kerry stressed the trade initiative remains a key element of the Obama administration's so-called Asia pivot.

"We understand how critical this is. At its core, TPP is about generating growth for our economies and jobs for our people by unleashing a wave of investment and entrepreneurship, all across the Asia-Pacific," Kerry said. "This comes at a time when we all seek strong and sustainable growth. TPP is creating a race to the top, not to the bottom."

Besides the APEC summit, Kerry is leading a delegation to the to U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations session in Brunei.

CNN reported that in the absence of Obama, President Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia would be taking the ringside seats at the summit.

Normally, it is the United States, as the world's largest economy, which sets the tone.

The CNN report said with Obama staying back in Washington, it would be up to Kerry to carry the load in discussions with Xi, Putin and other key leaders such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indonesian host President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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