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President Obama Wraps Up G-20 Summit In Hangzhou, China


President Obama arrived in Laos this afternoon for a summit meeting with Southeast Asian leaders, and it's the second stop on a busy diplomatic tour. Earlier today the president wrapped up a G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China, where he also met privately with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now to talk more about this. Welcome to the studio, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Audie.

CORNISH: So the president had an informal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and we're told it lasted about an hour and a half. What more do we know about it?

HORSLEY: President Obama described part of his 90-minute meeting with Vladimir Putin as constructive but not conclusive, and I think that sort of sums up the overall tone here. They did not reach agreement on a hope for a cease-fire in Syria where Russia is backing the regime of Bashar al-Assad. And Obama says a cease-fire is badly needed both to deliver humanitarian aid and because the regime's attacks have become a recruiting tool for an al-Qaida offshoot there.

While there was no agreement on a cease-fire Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart will keep talking.

CORNISH: Meanwhile some people see Russia's fingerprints on recent cyber attacks in the U.S., including the hack of Democratic National Committee computers. Now, did the two leaders actually talk about this?

HORSLEY: Obama says he did address cyber security with Putin, although when he spoke with reporters, he did not specifically address those allegations that Russia was behind the DNC hack or maybe the hack of some other political networks in this country.

The president issued a blunt warning, saying, look; the U.S. has cyber weapons of its own it could unleash but suggesting that a digital detente would be in the better interests of everyone.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Our goal is not to suddenly, in the cyber arena, duplicate a cycle of escalation that we saw when it comes to, you know, other arms races in the past but rather to start instituting some norms so that everybody is acting responsibly.

CORNISH: OK, from China, the president headed to Laos. That's where he's expected to give a speech this week outlining U.S. outreach to Asia. Of course that includes the big trade deal the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal with a very uncertain future, you know, given the campaign rhetoric right now in the U.S. What's the president saying about that?

HORSLEY: TPP has certainly become a political pinata in this country with both candidates bashing it. Obama still hopes to get it ratified during the lame-duck session. That is after the November election but before he and this Congress leave office. The president admitted today it's not easy, but he believes it's doable.


OBAMA: The United States has never had a smooth, uncontroversial path to ratifying trade deals, but they eventually get done. And it's my intention to get this one done because on the merits, it is smart for America to do it.

HORSLEY: The president says he doesn't have to promote this trade deal to Asian leaders he's meeting with because they've already signed on, but they'll be watching closely what happens in the U.S. And Obama aides have said this is a litmus test for U.S. credibility in the region.

CORNISH: And then one other question not about international diplomacy - it's actually about football, specifically the controversial demonstration by the 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick - his decision not to stand during the national anthem for the last two games. Kaepernick says he's protesting racial injustice and police brutality. What did the president have to say about this?

HORSLEY: President Obama defended Kaepernick, albeit cautiously. He did say that the anthem and the flag are very important to a lot of Americans, and they might be so upset by the style of Kaepernick's protest that it's hard for them to focus on the substance.

But he did say Kaepernick is exercising his constitutional rights, and he says there's some tradition of athletes doing that to shine a spotlight on issues of concern.


OBAMA: I don't doubt his sincerity based on what I've heard. I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about. And you know, if nothing else, what he's done is he's generated, you know, more conversation around some topics that need to be talked about.

HORSLEY: You know, even when the president's overseas, he's often asked to comment on domestic issues. One thing he was not asked about today, though, Audie - and this is unusual - Donald Trump.

CORNISH: That's NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Scott, thank you.

HORSLEY: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.