President Obama blamed the failure to pass a multinational trade agreement on the U.S. presidential election campaign Wednesday, saying it's difficult to get things done during political season.
Speaking at a Q&A session with young leaders in Laos, Obama said he thinks focus on the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the U.S. and 11 other countries will resume after the election. The TPP has been agreed by the nations involved but not ratified by Congress.
Obama is one of several world leaders visiting Laos to attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Terrorism, natural disasters and military resources are among the topics being discussed.
Earlier Wednesday, Obama paid tribute to survivors maimed by some 80 million unexploded bombs the U.S. dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War. The tribute follows a U.S. pledge this week to finally clean the ordinance up.
“For the last four decades, Laotians have continued to live under the shadow of war,” Obama said as he toured a rehabilitation center in Vientiane. “The war did not end when the bombs stopped falling.”
The U.S. has vowed to double spending on the cleanup operation to roughly $90 million over three years. It follows the $100 million the U.S. has committed in the past 20 years.
Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. conducted 580,000 bombing missions over Laos, dropping 270 million cluster bombs on the officially neutral country. About a third of those failed to detonate and less than 1% have been cleared.
Obama also toured a Buddhist temple Wednesday in mountainous northern Laos where he paid tribute to the nation's rich culture. The 16th century Wat Xieng Thong temple in Luang Prabang sits along the Mekong River and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. He described the temple as "gorgeous."
In his speech to the young leaders he said that the U.S. "is and can be a great force for good in the world." But he also noted Americans "haven’t always had to know about other countries" because of the U.S.'s large size and that sometimes they are "lazy." The president said he wants to encourage deeper connections with Asia.
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