Bush was speaking poke in Singapore at the start of a three-nation visit to Asia, his first trip abroad since his Republican Party suffered a major defeat in U.S. Congressional elections.
In his speech at the city-state's National University, Bush said Asia is becoming ever more important to the United States.
"Our trade across the Pacific is greater than our trade across the Atlantic, and American businesses see a bright future in your thriving economies and rising middle class," Bush said, promising that "America will remain engaged in Asia because our interests depend on the expansion of freedom and opportunity in this region."
Bush called for long-stalled global trade talks to be revived and he promoted the idea of a free-trade agreement for the 21 major economies along the Pacific Rim.
He urged North Korea to give up its nuclear program and called on regional states to cooperate with Washington to put pressure on Pyongyang.