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Obama Welcomes Brunei Leader in Prelude to East Asia Summits

March 12 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama held White House talks with the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, as the two leaders weigh how to move forward on a trade agreement between the U.S. and 10 Asian nations.

“Our interest in have a strong, peaceful, prosperous Asia-Pacific region is something we share,” Obama said after today’s discussions. The two leaders planned a private lunch afterwards.

Brunei is hosting the October East Asia summit and the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital and largest city in Brunei. The tiny Southeast Asian nation on the island of Borneo has one of the highest standards of living in the world because of its wealth of oil and gas exports.

Those exports from Brunei’s $78 billion economy contribute about 90 percent of all government revenue, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The two leaders were also scheduled to discuss ways to move forward on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a region-wide free trade pact among 10 nations and the U.S. that the White House is pushing to complete by the end of this year. Obama has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports worldwide to $3.14 trillion by the end of 2014 from $1.57 trillion in 2009.

The sultan’s visit reflects Obama’s focus on ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, the White House said in a statement.

Climate Change

Obama said the summits will deal with issues such as “energy and climate change to how we expand commerce” through the proposed Trans-Pacific trade deal.

The sultan was also scheduled to hold separate talks with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The sultan met with Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday on issues including the South China Sea, energy and climate change.

Obama attended the East Asia Summit in Bali, Indonesia, in 2011. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Brunei in September to discuss disputes between China and neighbors in the South and East China Seas, including U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines.

To contact the reporters on this story: Roger Runningen in Washington at rrunningen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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