The role of Asia is \"absolutely central\" for the American economy and trade in particular, U.S. under secretary of commerce for international trade Francisco Sanchez said here on Tuesday. Leading a delegation of 14 U.S. biotechnology companies to promote trade in Hong Kong, Sanchez told media the Asia-Pacific region is \"absolutely critical\" to achieving U.S. President Barack Obama\'s goal of doubling its exports by the end of 2014. According to Sanchez, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is one of the top trade policy agendas of the U.S. government. TPP is an Asia-Pacific regional trade agreement being negotiated among the United States and eight other partners, namely Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. \"TPP should become a platform that stands beyond the nine nations that are currently negotiating it. It should be a platform for other countries in the region to join on,\" he argued. In order to foster United States-Hong Kong partnerships, Hong Kong Trade Development Council launched in November 2010 the Pacific Bridge Initiative (PBI) which tapped potential markets in Asia, particularly the Chinese mainland. Presenting the Peace through Commerce Award to Fred Lam, executive director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for his works to promote PBI, Sanchez commented that \"Hong Kong is a great place to do business and a great partner to the United States in commerce and trade.\" As for the unique role of Hong Kong, Sanchez said the city has become a global beacon for the benefits of free and fair trade, for rule of law, for intellectual property protection and for dynamic, private-sector driven development. In terms of trade protectionism, Sanchez said the U.S. leadership knows well that protectionism will jeopardize trade and economy on the whole. \"It is the interest for both the U.S. and China to strive for level playing field,\" he continued. When asking about the on-going European debt crisis, Sanchez said it is vital not only for Europe but for other countries to understand that the world is highly interconnected in terms of trade and economy. He emphasized that countries should try to create markets and lower trade barriers in order to have more opportunities to engage in trade. The U.S. trade mission delegates were introduced to distributors, public and private buying agents and other potential business partners during their Hong Kong visit. Additionally, one- on-one meetings were arranged with potential agents, distributors, and partners, enabling U.S. companies to position themselves to enter or expand their presence in the region. The delegation visited Beijing last week.