President Obama opened the first session of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit Sunday in Honolulu, saying Asia is "critical" to U.S. economic growth.
"Our 21 economies -- our nearly 3 billion citizens -- are looking to us to bring our economies closer, to increase exports, to expand trade and opportunity that creates jobs and economic growth. That's why we're here," Obama said in his opening remarks at the J.W. Marriott Resort Hotel.
"The Asia-Pacific region is absolutely critical to America's economic growth. … We consider it a top priority because we're not going to be able to put our folks back to work and grow our economy and expand opportunity unless the Asia Pacific region is also successful," Obama said, adding the summit would focus on "trade and investment, promoting green jobs, and streamlining and coordinating regulations so that we encourage trade and job creation."
On Saturday, Obama raised a toast at a Waikiki hotel luau and said the Pacific Rim nations had much in common and could benefit from cooperation on trade.
"Whatever our differences, our citizens have sent us here with a common task: to bring our economies closer together, to cooperate, to create jobs and prosperity that our people deserve so that they can provide for their families, so that they can give their children a better future," Obama said in his welcoming remarks.
Obama said Hawaii's cultural melting pot served as a good example for the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders who will be focusing largely on trade and other economic matters.
"We've learned that we're more likely to realize our aspirations when we pursue them together," Obama said. "That's the spirit of Hawaii."
Saturday's welcoming luau wasn't a typical Hawaiian celebration, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser noted, because the president and other leaders wore business attire rather than the usual aloha shirts.