Obama mounts strong defense of US economic policy

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US President Barack Obama Saturday firmly defended his economic recovery policies and said America's role in conjuring the "Asian Miracle" proved it was in the region to stay.

Ahead of a Pacific Rim summit in Japan, Obama said he had never been more confident in what the United States had to offer, despite criticisms that its slow rebound is a sign of waning US might as regional giants rise.

"Yes, the challenges that remain are great. There will be setbacks and disagreements and we won't solve every issue in one meeting or one trip or even in one term," Obama said at a business conference in Yokohama, Japan.

But he also argued that American human and financial resources had paved the way for the region's emergence and dynamic economies and said the United States meant to deepen its leadership role in the 21st century.

Obama noted that at the G20 summit in Seoul that ended on Friday, leaders had shown an underlying determination to keep focused on global economic expansion despite disagreements on other issues.

"As the largest economy in the world, an engine for global growth, that's particularly important for the United States," Obama said in a speech ahead of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) talks.

"That is why we passed an economic plan that has led to five consecutive quarters of economic growth and 10 consecutive months of private sector job growth.

"That's why we passed and are implementing the toughest set of financial reforms since the Great Depression -- something our G20 partners need to do with the same sense of urgency.

"And that's why we're cutting back on non-essentials in the face of serious fiscal challenges."

Obama's speech was partly a summing up of his eight-day stay in Asia, which he billed as a mission to pry open export markets and create American jobs.

He argued, despite a sheaf of negative headlines about his diminished political clout following a "shellacking" by Republicans in mid-term elections, that his trip had successfully reinvigorated US engagement in a vital region.

"Yokohama is my last stop on a journey that has taken me from Mumbai and New Delhi to Jakarta and Seoul," Obama said.

"The security and prosperity of the American people is inextricably linked to the security and prosperity of Asia. That is why this was not my first trip here, and why it will not be my last.

"America is leading again in Asia."

Obama also played a moral card, as he argued for America's continued relevance in a region which is seeing the rise of great powers like China and India and a parallel expansion of influence for Southeast Asian economies.

"In the last century, the United States of America contributed greatly to the security and prosperity of this region.

"The strength of our alliances and the bravery of our men and women in uniform helped keep the peace and the openness of our markets helped fuel the rise of the Asian Miracle."

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