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Citing 'equality,' Obama defends TPP as Donald Trump seeks a withdrawal

President Barack Obama answers questions during his news conference at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Lima, Peru, Sunday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Barack Obama on Sunday told Asian leaders wary of President-elect Donald Trump's statements on trade that he continues to believe in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and that the key is to "do trade right."

Speaking to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Obama's attempts to soothe Asian leaders led to reflections on "equality" in trade, as reported by the AFP:

Obama's concerns about growing inequality were echoed by other leaders at the gathering, with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong saying steps must be taken to ensure that "no groups in society are left behind."

"Only then can we push ahead with trade and economic cooperation," he said.

Trump, for his part, has indicated a desire for the U.S. to pull out of the TPP and seek trade deals that would presumably allow for more stateside autonomy:

On trade, I am going to issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country. Instead, we will negotiate fair, bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores.

Trump's statements, reflecting a growing trend in Western nations to become masters of their own fate regarding trade (the recent Brexit vote in the UK being the most notable example), have made many trade partners in Asia anxious that Trump may be moving toward protectionism, the theory that a country may attempt to "protect" its domestic businesses and industries from foreign competition by taxing imports.

If Trump does withdraw from the TPP, it is widely thought China would fill the void left behind. However, according to the AFP report, "other observers have suggested that the deal-making real estate mogul may seek to negotiate changes to the agreement once he takes office in January, and then claim a victory if a new version is passed."

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