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President George W. Bush and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet pose in front of a bust of Ho Chi Minh on Nov. 17, 2006 at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi. - 

KAI RYSSDAL: President Bush is out of town, as you might have heard. He's in Vietnam for a meeting of APEC countries. That stands for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. But most of the questions sent the president's way in Hanoi so far have been about something else.

PRESIDENT BUSH: History has a long march to it. And that societies change, and relationships can constantly be altered to the good. We tend to want there to be instant success in the world and the task in Iraq is going to take a while.

Fred Bergsten's with the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C. We got him on the line to ask whether there's any actual economic cooperation going on at the meeting. He said you bet there is. There's talk of a Pacific Rim free trade zone and reviving stalled global trade negotiations. But all that's kind of on the sidelines.

FRED BERGSTEN: APEC has over the last 10 years or so evolved from being purely an economic forum to a broader discussion on whatever are the key issues of the day.

The President wasn't able to take a Vietnamese trade deal with him to Hanoi. The House rejected a bill to normalize trade relations right before he left — Largely on procedural grounds, it should be said.

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal