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Obama heads to Asia after election

President Obama will embark on a weeklong trip to Asia days after a midterm election that could cost his party the Senate.

The trip will offer Obama a chance to flee Washington after what’s shaping up to be a rough Election Day for his party.

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It will also give him an opportunity to pursue a transpacific trade deal that could become the cornerstone of his work with Republican leaders in the Senate — if they seize control of the upper chamber.

Obama will head first to Beijing, where he’s expected to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. While there, he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to jostle for influence over their competing trade proposals. 

The Obama Administration is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement between a dozen regional countries.

But China, which is not included in the TPP talks, is expected to push its own rival free-trade agreement during the gathering of Asian nations. And Obama has so far struggled to sell the deal in the U.S., with top Democrats — including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — opposing the deal

Following the summit, Xi will host Obama for a formal state visit, where they are expected to discuss a range of foreign policy challenges. The White House in recent weeks has been critical of China’s decision not to commit greater funding and resources to fight the Ebola crisis. China has, however, committed to help the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The pair will also discuss the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. They are also expected to touch on Chinese civil rights programs, dueling cyber warfare efforts and Chinese military provocations toward neighboring Asian countries. 

From Beijing, Obama will travel to Burma, a country in the midst of a difficult political and constitutional reform process. Last month, Obama pressured President Thein Sein to speed the implementation of reforms and improve conditions for thousands of minority Muslims who have been put in internment camps in the country’s western provinces.

Obama visited in 2012, as the military-backed government began freeing political prisoners, but this visit is only because the country is hosting a pair of East Asia summits he’s scheduled to attend. Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with Sein but is also expected to meet with Nobel Peace Prize winner and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

From there, Obama will head to Australia for a meeting of the G-20, where he’s expected to push other leading economies to join the U.S. in working to reduce global warming. The renewed climate push will come despite skepticism from host Australia, whose Prime Minister Tony Abbott abolished his country’s carbon tax.