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Obama praises TPP; rips Trump

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/08/2016 Peter Mitchell, NZN US Correspondent

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event. © Alex Wong/GETTY IMAGES Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event. US President Barack Obama has praised the strength of America's alliances with Asia-Pacific nations while slamming Donald Trump as being unfit for the White House.

Mr Obama, at a press conference in Washington DC on Tuesday with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, also vowed to make the Trans-Pacific Partnership mega trade deal a reality in the final weeks of his presidency.

The top presidential candidates, Republican nominee Mr Trump and the Democrats' Hillary Clinton, are both against the TPP, but Mr Obama is aiming to push the landmark deal through Congress in the "lame duck" period after the November 8 presidential election and before he leaves office in January.

"Hopefully, after the election is over and the dust settles there will be more attention to the actual facts behind the deal and it won't just be a political symbol or a political football," Mr Obama told reporters.

The 12-nation TPP involves the US, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Canada, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam.

If the US fails to pass the TPP, China will set the trade agenda in the Asia-Pacific, Mr Obama said.

"If we don't establish strong rules, norms for how trade and commerce are conducted in the Asia-Pacific region, then China will," Mr Obama said.

"China is already engaging all of the countries in the region around its own version of trade agreements and they are sure not worried about labour standards, environmental standards, human trafficking, anti-corruption measures."

Mr Obama said one of the major strategic shifts of his presidency, re-balancing America's focus away from Europe and the Middle-East to the rapidly-growing Asia-Pacific, had been a success.

It was a move championed by Ms Clinton during her role as secretary of state in the president's first term.

Mr Obama used the press conference to unleash his strongest attack on Mr Trump, describing the real estate mogul and former reality TV star as "woefully unprepared" and "unfit to serve as president".

Mr Obama pointed to Mr Trump's repeated gaffes and attacks on the family of Muslim-American Army Captain Humayun Kahn, who was killed by suicide bombers while guarding the gates of a forward operating base in Iraq in 2004.

"The notion that he would attack a Gold Star family that has made such extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country, the fact that he doesn't appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia, means that he's woefully unprepared to do this job," Mr Obama said.

Mr Trump responded by attacking Mr Obama's "failed leadership".

"Obama-Clinton have single-handedly destabilised the Middle East, handed Iraq, Libya and Syria to ISIS, and allowed our personnel to be slaughtered at Benghazi," Mr Trump said in a statement.

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