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U.S. economy focus of Obama's Asia trip

NUSA DUA, Indonesia -- President Barack Obama sought to charm Asia-Pacific leaders last week with Australian slang and memories from his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia in his bid to boost U.S. ties with the fast-growing region.

The top goal of the nine-day trip, which took Obama away from Washington just as U.S. budget battles were intensifying, was to cement a foreign-policy pivot toward Asia that could open the door to more American exports and jobs.

The president, struggling in the polls after bitter fights with Republicans in Congress, geared his Asia message to U.S. voters who will decide next November whether to give him another four years in office.

In Honolulu, Australia and the Indonesian island of Bali, Obama sought out every chance to talk about America's export potential, and the White House previewed Boeing and GE deals with Asia that it said could sustain 130,000 U.S. jobs.

Hitching the lackluster U.S. economy to the world's fastest growing region could be a "win-win" for American companies and workers as well as for the increasingly affluent Asian consumers who might buy their products, Obama said.

He also sharpened his tone toward China in a strategy that might help him counter criticism from Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who has accused the Democratic president of being willing to only "whisper" to Beijing about U.S. trade concerns.

As Obama left Bali Saturday to return to a still-divided Washington, White House officials seemed confident the messages from his Asia tour would resonate well at home.

"From our perspective, we've been able to positively advance each of the key goals that we had for the course of this trip. And I think that's been in the U.S. interest," said Tom Donilon, Obama's top national security adviser.

In addition to the trade accord, Obama also unveiled a new military partnership with Asia and seized on a diplomatic opening with Myanmar by announcing that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would soon visit the reclusive country.

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