Royce says Obama’s Asia trip is opportunity to put focus on trade, human rights

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said President Barack Obama’s three-country trip to Asia is an opportunity for the United States to expand ties in the Asia-Pacific region and address human rights issues in Burma.

Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the president can “put a laser focus on trade” during the trip, which includes stops in China, the U.S.-ASEAN Summit in Burma and Australia.

“Nearly half of the world’s economic growth over the next five years is expected to occur in Asia,” Royce said. “Yet, while Asian economies have moved forward with trade liberalization amongst themselves, the United States has largely stood on the sidelines.”

Royce called on Obama to redouble efforts to to successfully negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – the free-trade agreement between the United States and 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

“A well-negotiated TPP could boost U.S. exports by more than $123 billion in 10 years,” Royce said.

Royce also urged that human rights be a major focus of Obama’s trip to the predominantly Buddhist nation of Burma, from which more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled over the past two years.

“When President Obama sits down for his bilateral meeting with Burmese President Thein Sein, he needs to send a message that these continued abuses are unacceptable,” Royce said. “Too often, human rights take a backseat to other discussions. For the sake of the increasingly marginalized Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities, President Obama needs to make it unequivocally clear that increased engagement with Burma relies on an end to these abuses.”