August 18, 2016 / 4:10 PM / 3 years ago

Obama to head to China, Laos for last visit in his 'rebalance' push

U.S. President Barack Obama waves to reporters as he walks out with First lady Michelle Obama from the White House in Washington, U.S. August 6, 2016 before departure for their summer vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama next month will make what is expected to be his final trip to Asia, a region at the center of his administration’s foreign policy, to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders, the White House said on Thursday.

During his time in the White House, Obama has sought to “rebalance” America’s defense and economic policy to counter China’s rising influence.

During the trip from Sept. 2-9, Obama will attend the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, where he will also meet privately with Xi, the White House said in a statement.

He also will travel to Laos to participate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and East Asia Summit, where leaders have grappled with China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Obama will be the first U.S. president to visit Laos. He will have a bilateral meeting with Laos President Bounnhang Vorachith and attend a town hall with young leaders, the White House said.

The trip will also be a chance for Obama to promote the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, a key part of his Asia strategy that he hopes the U.S. Congress will approve before his term ends on Jan. 20.

Trade deals and their impact on U.S. manufacturing jobs have become a hot-button issue in the Nov. 8 presidential campaign. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump both oppose the TPP, and congressional approval is uncertain.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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